Some Minnesota voters hope to make reparations — the idea of compensating African Americans for the legacy of slavery — a main agenda item for the DFL.
It didn’t get much attention at the time, but voters throughout the state voted at the state’s March 1 DFL caucuses to pass a reparations resolution, a proposal brought forth by members of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC).
Passed resolutions don’t necessarily make it into official party platforms, but NOC organizers said they’re hoping to start a serious discussion on a topic they say is more viable than people may think.
“There’s always been this myth that reparations is unpopular… we really proved that that’s just not true,” said NOC organizer Wintana Melekin. “Thousands of people voted to start a conversation on reparations.”
NOC leaders put the resolution together — which can be read in full here — with input from community members, Melekin said. Out of the ten resolutions community members listed as a priority, reparations was one of the most popular.
Minneapolis resident Faith Bickner said the reparations resolution she introduced to her Phillips neighborhood precinct on Tuesday passed without a single objection. She said she sees reparations as a guide for taxpayers and policy makers to funnel money away from institutions that have been mainly benefiting the status quo, and putting that money toward programs and establishments that actively work towards racial equity.
“A pretty easy example is charter schools,” Bickner said. “Spending all this money on charter schools has, in a way, been better for white Minnesotan kids than it has been for black Minnesotan kids.”
Bickner said starting the conversation is the first step, and that she trusts organizations like NOC and Black Lives Matter Minneapolis to lead that conversation in a constructive way, she said.
Black Lives Matter organizer Lena Gardner agreed, saying if Minnesota policy makers kept reparations in mind while making their decisions, they might put more of the state’s funding into things that directly benefit the black community, like early childhood education or criminal justice reform.
“When it comes to the education crisis in Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools there is no money, there is no funding, nobody can come up with any solutions,” she said. “But then on less than two months’ notice [Minneapolis] can magically find $600,000 to fortify the Fourth Precinct [police station].”
Melekin said too many people think it means just cutting a check for descendants of slavery. Rather, she said, people should see that the issue is far more nuanced. “It can also be investing in educational programs, it can also be investing in community infrastructure, it can be anything,” she said. “We just want to make sure the conversation is being had and that reparations is not being pushed off the table as some wacky ideology.”