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Professors claim slavery reparations would have reduced COVID-19 deaths among African Americans

Paper did not control for descendants of slaves versus other black Americans

A team of professors recently released a paper that argues reparations for descendants of slaves would have reduced COVID deaths among the black population.

“A restitutive program targeted towards Black individuals would not only decrease COVID-19 risk for recipients of the wealth redistribution,” the researchers said, but “the mitigating effects would also be distributed across racial groups, benefiting the population at large.”

The paper, published in the February edition of Social Science and Medicine, is a collaboration of Harvard professors Eugene Richardson, Michelle Morse, Mary Bassett, Momin Malik and Paul Farmer. Duke University Professor William Darity also is a researcher on the project, as are several researchers not affiliated with a university.

None of the professors who contributed to the paper responded to emailed requests for comment from The College Fix in the past two weeks. An email to Malik bounced back due to a technical issue. Darity previously told The Fix that he didn’t view “[The Fix] as a platform that makes inquiries in good faith.”

Richardson, Morse, Bassett, Farmer, Malik and Darity were all asked for a cost estimate for the reparations. The Fix also asked if the researchers found that wealthier African Americans did have higher COVID survival rates than poorer black Americans. Finally, The Fix asked how the researchers were able to distinguish between residents who were descendants of slaves and black citizens who were not in their modeling.

Researchers have advocated before for reparations

Darity told The Washington Post in 2019 that only the descendants of slaves should receive reparations. He also has been an outspoken advocate for reparations. Darity and his wife Kirsten Mullen, have previously put the number of descendants eligible for reparations at 35 million.

The paper looked at Darity’s research on a reparations program that would pay “$250,000 per individual or $800,000 per household” to descendants of African slaves. He previously estimated the total cost of the program would be “$10 to $12 trillion.”

Bassett has also previously proposed reparations to address racial health disparities.

For the study, the researchers compared Louisiana to South Korea in order to model the benefits of a reparations program.

The paper linked higher death rates among black Americans versus white Americans to racism.

The researchers wrote that this is a product of “vast disparities in Black and white health that are a concatenation of legacies of enslavement, legal segregation, [and] white terrorism (e.g., lynchings during the Jim Crow period).” The researchers also cited “hyperincarceration, lethal policing, and ongoing discrimination in housing, employment, policing, credit markets, and health care.”

It cited research from several sources, including from Darity, who also helped start an “Inequality Studies” minor at Duke.

The team said “path-dependent structural inequalities such as overcrowded housing, concentration in frontline work, and hyperincarceration led directly to greater exposure and transmission among Black people.”

“The causes of health disparities are also locked in a pernicious feedback loop with wealth,” the researchers said, “wherein forms of ongoing discrimination deprive the Black population of the assets and generational wealth” that could address these disparities.

“The appalling evidence of racism embodied as disproportionate COVID-19 incidence and mortality for Black Americans should,” the researchers concluded, “add to moral, historical, and legal arguments for reparations for descendants of people enslaved in the U.S.”

MORE: Brown U. student government wants slavery reparations

IMAGE: Hush Naidoo/Unsplash

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About the Author
Claire Anderson -- Northern Virginia Community College