KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Reparations: It’s a topic returning to city hall in Kansas City as elected officials considering starting a special commission on the issue.
If the city takes the step, they will join others including St. Paul, Minnesota, and Ashville, North Carolina, which have already started their own programs.
One stated goal of those commissions is to reverse the historical impact of slavery. The proposal would also include an apology on behalf of Kansas City, seeking to make amends for participating in segregation and policies like race-based housing laws.
On Tuesday, members of the KC Coalition for Reparations shared their vision for an official commission at Kansas City’s Special Committee for Legal Review. Their goal is for the commission to not only be organized by — but also funded by — the city.
“This is something that’s fairly new. The national reparations movement has been around for quite a while. The local movement is fairly new,” said Mickey Dean, member of the KC Reparations Coalition.
“Yeah, there are council members that serve on this body that were alive during the time that those laws were enacted, and so they haven’t been that long ago,” Third District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson said.
Robinson is sponsoring the proposal, which also has heavy involvement from the mayor’s office. If created, the first task of the reparations commission would be to create a historical document showing the city’s involvement in discriminatory law.
“It’s not by coincidence that there’s a Black ghetto in almost every city in America. That’s not a coincidence,” Robinson said.
“And so we have to do more, and we have to not just think about if we’re going to achieve parity, and we’re talking about yes applying things with an equitable lens. We have to really be clear about the injury that’s been done.”
“Reparations is distinctively different from equity policies and that we have to take into consideration the whole historical record,” Dean said.
“Where we are today is lightyears ahead of where we were just 10 years ago. In the 2020 presidential election in the Democratic primary, you had candidates talking about H.R. 40, the national reparations legislation. That was unheard of years ago,” Dean said.
The proposal will return to Kansas City’s legal review committee in mid-January.
The mayor’s proposal for a ballot question that would ask for a 3% city tax on recreational marijuana sold in Kansas City was held back from Tuesday’s meeting. That item is also expected to return to the committee’s agenda in January.
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