Social Solutions to Poverty:
America's Struggle to Build a Just Society
A book by Scott Myers-Lipton


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Solving Poverty


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. . . some in the 1990s began promoting the idea of reparations to African Americans for the damage that has been done to the black community. The heritage of 246 years of enslavement, 100 years of Jim Crow, and current racial discrimination has made Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “curious formula” applicable today. The poverty rate for African Americans is 24 percent compared to 9 percent for whites; the black child poverty rate is 34 percent compared to 12 percent for whites; the black unemployment rate is 10 percent compared to 5 percent among whites; and the black infant mortality rate is 14 percent compared to 7 percent for whites.


In order to fundamentally change the “curious formula,” Randall Robinson

and others have demanded that the U.S. government pay reparations. Robinson

states, “No nation can enslave a race of people for hundreds of years, set

them free bedraggled and penniless, pit them, without assistance in a hostile

environment, against privileged victimizers, and then reasonably expect the gap between the heirs of the two groups to narrow.” 


Robinson’s reparation plan does not mention a specific amount of compensation, as he feels that it is first necessary to conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine the cost to repair the damage to black society. However, he does suggest that the money for reparations be put in a trust fund to supplement K–12 offerings in advanced math, sciences, English, and foreign languages; develop residential K–12 schools for black children living in unhealthy families or neighborhoods; and provide free college tuition for any academically qualified student. Reparations might also fund economic empowerment as well as the civil rights advocacy work necessary to combat institutional racism.

Myers-Lipton, p. 266-267

 (Excerpted from “Social Solutions to Poverty” © Paradigm Publishers 2006)


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