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Florida Lawmaker Wants a Constitutional Amendment to Ban Reparations in State

The resolution comes amid a wider push by Florida Republicans to whitewash the history of slavery in the U.S.

Flags fly atop the Florida Historic Capitol, part of the overall Capitol Complex, on July 26, 2023 in Tallahassee, Florida.

A Florida lawmaker has introduced a constitutional amendment that would forbid any state or local government from being able to distribute reparation payments to descendants of people who were enslaved in the U.S. prior to the end of the Civil War.

The joint resolution, authored by Republican state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, would need to pass both houses of the state legislature by 60 percent votes before being sent to Florida voters, who must approve the amendment in a ballot measure before it is included in the state constitution.

The measure reads:

The state, a county, a municipality, or any other political subdivision may not pay compensation in the form of reparations to an individual who is a descendant of an enslaved individual who lived in the United States before December 6, 1865.

The date cited in the proposal is when the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids the enslavement of anyone other than incarcerated people, was ratified.

Ingoglia, a far right lawmaker who was formerly the head of the Republican Party of Florida, said the measure was needed to give voters “a voice on whether their tax dollars should be used (to) further the agendas of candidates or elected officials who engage in race baiting tactics for political gain.”

But as Florida Politics has noted, Ingoglia is not unfamiliar with misleading constituents on matters relating to race to score cheap political points.

Earlier this year, the far right Florida Republican authored a bill that sought to effectively end the Democratic Party in the state. Through failed legislation called “The Ultimate Cancel Act,” Ingoglia’s proposal would have banned any political party in the state that had, in its past, supported the institution of slavery within its platform, which the Democratic Party had done prior to the Civil War.

The bill, decried as “fascist” by critics, blatantly ignored that the two parties have largely swapped platforms over the past 150 years — and that Republicans have openly embraced white nationalism and campaigned to disenfranchise Black voters in recent years.

Ingoglia’s resolution on reparations comes as far right lawmakers in Florida wage a campaign to suppress education about slavery in the state. In 2008, state lawmakers passed a resolution expressing “regret” for Florida’s role in enslaving people, but stopped short of issuing an actual apology. In July, the Florida State Board of Education approved curriculum standards that would require middle schoolers to learn that some enslaved people “benefited” from slavery — an ahistorical claim that was widely condemned by educators as whitewashing the brutality of slavery and white supremacy in the U.S.

Florida lawmakers have also recently introduced a bill that would punish cities for removing existing monuments, a measure that appears to be aimed at ensuring the preservation of Confederate statues in the state.

Kwolanne Felix, an advocate for reparations and a William Rivers Pitt Emerging Writers Fellow for Truthout, noted in an August column that, far from being a new idea, “African Americans’ demands for reparation have their roots in centuries of advocacy, as old as emancipation.” Felix also pointed out that granting reparations to descendants of enslaved people would address many historical wrongs, including the fact that “some enslavers received reparations from the U.S. government after the emancipation of enslaved people.”

Recent moves by some local and state governments to consider reparations for descendants of enslaved people are positive steps toward acknowledging and repairing past harms, Felix added.

“Imagining paths forward when considering these historical circumstances is not easy,” Felix wrote. “However, to first move forward, understanding what reparations actually are is vital. As the U.S. confronts its history, reparations will play a role in creating a more just future.”

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