St. Paul City Council approves creation of slavery reparations committee

The main goal of the committee is to “make significant progress toward repairing the damage caused by public and private systemic racism in the City of Saint Paul.”

St. Paul City Council members / stpaul.gov

The St. Paul City Council unanimously voted to approve the creation of a committee dedicated to researching reparations for descendants of slavery in order to engage in “racial healing.”

The resolution, which was approved during a Wednesday night meeting, names the new group the Saint Paul Recovery Act Community Reparations Commission. The main goal of the committee is to “make significant progress toward repairing the damage caused by public and private systemic racism in the City of Saint Paul.”

“Although slavery was illegal in Minnesota, Dred Scott and Harriet Scott were in bondage at Fort Snelling as well as other African Americans who were used for enslaved labor by U.S. Army officers,” the resolution reads.

The resolution details St. Paul’s history of slavery and discrimination, citing redlining, environmental injustice, racial covenants, and forced segregation. Systemic discrimination, according to the resolution, was carried out in part by “the removal of Saint Paul’s Rondo neighborhood — the center of Saint Paul’s African American business, residential, spiritual and cultural life — for the construction of Interstate 94.”

The authors of the document write that slavery reparations are “widely considered” the most effective way to eliminate the current structure of society “related to power, money and access to resources.”

The document also notes that the George Floyd killing led to international recognition of the “racial hierarchy” as it stands under our “so-called democratic institutions.”

During the City Council meeting, journalist and co-chair of the commission, Georgia Fort, noted that “African Americans are continuously disproportionately impacted in every facet of life.”

“We cannot show up at the table anywhere and talk about equity without economic justice,” Fort said.

After the history lesson, the resolution then lists everything the City Council is apologizing for, including “allowing the construction of Interstate 94 to destroy a vibrant Black community and successful Black businesses,” and the “enforcement of institutional racism and its accompanying discriminatory practices.”

The reparations committee will recommend specific actions that can be taken with the explicit intention of addressing “the creation of generational wealth” for descendants of chattel slavery in the St. Paul Black community.

Citizens of St. Paul wrote to the council to voice their opinions about the reparations committee. Two citizens wrote to say they fully support the idea, and two other citizens shared their strong opposition to the resolution.

One citizen is “appalled at the idiocy” of the City Council. “Apparently, the council is unaware that this great nation fought a civil war to end the immoral subjugation of slaves in America,” she wrote. “I am not responsible for southern slave owners. I have never owned slaves nor have any of my ancestors, and our state was never a slave-owning state.”

Another citizen asked why the council is considering reparations for only African American slaves’ descendants. “Didn’t the Irish and Chinese immigrants also become slaves? Slavery came in many colors and was abolished long before any of us alive today were filling our diapers with what regularly comes out of the council’s meetings,” he wrote.