WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. should consider “a wide range of possibilities” to make up for the impact of slavery and systemic racism on the financial health of Black families, with reparations one of the options, Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic said on Thursday.
“Issues around African Americans and wealth building and the state’s role in preventing that from happening are long recognized,” Bostic said as part of a forum organized by The Atlantic magazine. “It is important we consider a wide range of possibilities and approaches to try and make amends for that. Reparations is one of them.”
A committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved creation of a commission to study possible reparations for descendants of people enslaved in the U.S. until the Civil War ended the practice — cash payments or other forms of restitution that would acknowledge centuries of unpaid labor.
Bostic, the first and so far only Black American appointed to run one of the Fed’s 12 regional reserve banks, has been outspoken about the impact of systemic racism — be it slavery or more recent practices like discrimination in mortgage lending — on the ability of Black families in particular to build wealth.
But the Federal Reserve system as a whole has become more attuned to the issue, both as a matter for short term consideration — the unemployment rate for Blacks remains well above that for whites, and the Fed hopes that will narrow with its more aggressive policies — and the long term productivity of the national economy.
Though as a policy matter Fed officials argue their best weapon is to ensure job growth remains as robust as possible for as long as possible, there are other strategies that might come into play, such as using the Fed’s reach to make sure Black and other families of color take advantage of things like mortgage refinancing to the same degree as whites.
“We need to spend more time…bringing together a wide range of people to wrestle with those solutions so we can figure out what is actionable,” Bostic said.
(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Aurora Ellis)