The idea of the American Dream lies an assumption that we all have an equal opportunity to generate wealth.

Today, the average white family has roughly 10 times the amount of wealth as the average Black family. White college graduates have over seven times more wealth than Black college graduates.

Making the American Dream an equitable reality demands the same U.S. government that denied wealth to Blacks to restore that deferred wealth through reparations to their descendants in the form of cash payments.

A coalition of activists and organizations renewed calls for the passage of H.R. 40, a federal bill that would create a national commission to study slavery and discrimination in the US and recommend potential remedies including reparations. Originally introduced by the late Congressman John Conyers of Michigan in 1989.

Given the extremely slow pace of federal change, several states including California, New Jersey and New York, have moved forward with their own proposed plans to tackle the issue and begin to repair the harms caused by centuries of servitude and discrimination.

California became the first state in the country to establish a reparations task force with the passage of Assembly Bill 3121 in September 2020, requiring the study of slavery and the development of reparations proposals. 

“This is a debt owed and it deserves the proper attention and action,” said reparatory justice scholar and attorney Kamilah Moore, who is the chairperson of the California Reparations Taskforce.

In New York, the State Assembly voted to establish the “New York State Community Commission on Reparations Remedies” in June 2021.

In New Jersey, the Say The Word Reparations campaign was launched on Juneteenth last year by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ) calling for the state to establish a reparations taskforce.

“New Jersey was known as the slave state of the North,” said Andrea McChristian, NJISJ Law & Policy Director. “We called our campaign ‘Say The Word Reparations’ because we need to call it what it is. We’re repairing a harm that was created by design, that we need to fix intentionally by design as well,” she told ESSENCE, adding that New Jersey has some of the worst racial disparities in the country, including one of the highest racial wealth gaps.

With detailed plans to take a comprehensive look at the history of slavery in U.S. and its lingering effects, advocates want state-led efforts to become a roadmap for a national approach to reparations.  

“We can’t move forward as a nation; we can’t say that Black Lives Matter by starting today. We have to understand the history and the intention that got us here and begin to intentionally rebuild,” Andrea McChristian said.