Tennessee bill to ban slavery reparations draws opposition

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — A Memphis pastor has started a petition against a bill that would prohibit the study of reparations for descendants of slaves in Tennessee, and in two days, it has more than 500 signatures.

State Sen. Brent Taylor, a Shelby County Republican, is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill, SB0429.

An amendment to the bill, added and passes in the Senate one year ago, prohibits local governments from exploring or implementing reparations for historical slavery and its ongoing impacts. It states:

AMENDMENT No. 1 rewrites this bill to prohibit a county, municipality, or metropolitan government from expending funds for the purposes of studying or disbursing reparations. As used in this amendment, “reparations” means money or benefits provided to individuals who are the descendants of persons who were enslaved.

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Taylor says this issue should be resolved on a national level and local tax dollars should not be spent researching reparations.

Reverend Earle Fisher, senior pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, says money isn’t the real issue.

“This is not about money. This is about ideology. This is about political power,” Fisher said. “This is about people who are hell-bent on maintaining racial and economic inequities across the state and they are scared to death that the truth would come out.  So, they don’t want anybody to study it.”

Taylor says the subject is significant, but the local government won’t be able to solve the problem.

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“I will make very clear our vote today does not pass judgment on reparations. That is a very significant and very important issue for many people in our country, but it is an issue that belongs to the federal government and does not belong to our cities and counties and I think it’s inappropriate for our cities and counties tax dollars to go to such an issue,” Taylor said.

“If the state of Tennessee has hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in a surplus, surplus means we are taking care of all of our financial responsibilities, and this is how much money we have left over. We can even call it expendable income,” Fisher said. “There are other entities and organizations that get 25 times that to do something most of us will probably say is a lot less significant.”

The bill is scheduled to go before the House for voting next Wednesday. The petition opposing the bill can be found here.

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