Institute Launches Reparations Campaign with Juneteenth Rally and Engagement Tools
With Wide and Diverse Support, Say the Word Campaign Calls for Passage of Legislation for a New Jersey Reparations Task Force
“Surprising to many, New Jersey has a substantial and dark history of slavery,” said Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “A direct line can be drawn from that history to today, when we have some of the worst racial disparities in America. It is time to repair the harm in a deep and lasting way, and reparations must be a part of that. Reparations can look like different kinds of investments in New Jersey’s Black communities, but we must embrace the word and not run from it.”
Despite being a northern state, New Jersey – which has been referred to as the “slave state of the North” – incentivized slavery at our state’s founding, when white settlers received 150 acres of land and were eligible to receive an additional 150 acres for every enslaved person they brought with them. New Jersey had a “slave code” in 1704 prohibiting African Americans from owning property. By 1830, over two-thirds of all enslaved people in the North were held in our state.
After official slavery ended, New Jersey, through the generations, had shameful policies including cottaging, a form of sharecropping; racially restrictive covenants; redlining; and race-based predatory lending. All of these policies coalesced to hinder Black people from accumulating wealth and property, with the impact still felt today. A recent piece by Haygood details some of this history.
“The extreme racial disparities in New Jersey begin to make sense when we look at the enduring history of oppression in our state,” said Andrea McChristian, Director of Law and Policy at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “This history and present were built by policy design, and therefore must be dismantled by design. The way forward must include an accounting and repair, and a Reparations Task Force can achieve that by making policy recommendations that are directly responsive to New Jersey’s unique history and current disparities.”
New Jersey has one of the widest racial wealth gaps in America. New Jersey’s white residents boast a median net wealth of $106,210, compared to a jaw-dropping $179 for Black and Latina/o residents – less than the cost of a laptop. New Jersey’s stark racial gaps show up not only in net wealth but also in health, education and incarceration, where we also have some of the worst disparities in America.
The Say the Word campaign launch will include a Juneteenth Say the Word: Reparations rally in Newark on June 19 featuring a line-up of speakers including Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Donald Payne, Jr., U.S. Senator Cory Booker and multi-faith and advocacy leaders from across the state. Information about logistics and speakers can be found here and a flyer can be found here.
“While we rightly celebrate the liberation of enslaved people on Juneteenth, we must also double down on our commitment to create an equitable and just America – and New Jersey – where Black people are truly free and not restricted by the shackles of structural racism,” said McChristian.
“Politicians have asked, ‘Can you call it something else? Do you need to use the word reparations?’” said Haygood. “Our answer is yes, we need to say the word – reparations – because this is about repair – repairing the deep cracks of structural racism in our foundation and building a new foundation where all New Jerseyans can thrive.”