Jan 29, 2024 - News

Capitol Pulse: Reparations debate looms in racial equity study bill

Photo illustration of a silhouette of a Black woman with collaged archival photos, fragments of dollar bills and a redlining map.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios; Photos: Clarence Gatson Collection/Gado/Getty Images, Dave Randolph/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images, National Archives via Mapping Inequality

Colorado's Black lawmakers are united behind one bill this session: a high-profile study of the legacy of slavery and the state's "track record of racial discrimination."

State of play: The two-year study, backed by the House leader and driven by a local nonprofit, seeks to quantify the economic repercussions on Black residents and put forward remedies, following in the footsteps of California and New York.

What they're saying: "What the bill will show … is Colorado's role in creating discriminatory policies and how those policies impact Blacks today," said state Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver), a sponsor.

The intrigue: The focus on the financial impact is sure to draw the most attention and shift the conversation to reparations.

  • The word isn't explicit in the legislation but the bill's advocates acknowledge it's part of the push. "We don't want to get ahead of ourselves," Rep. Jennifer Bacon (D-Denver) said.

Yes, but: Not all Black lawmakers want reparations in the discussion. "This is not about a dollar sign. This is not about 40 acres and a mule," state Sen. James Coleman (D-Denver) said.

  • He wants the attention on existing discriminatory policies. "We need to be given the tools and resources in order to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps," he said.
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