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Why Did Reparations Expert And Author Kirsten Mullen Attack HR40? 3 Things To Know


Award-winning reparations scholar and author Kirsten Mullen is not a fan of the H.R. 40 bill, which would establish a federal reparations commission to study and develop reparations proposals for Black Americans.

Here are three things to know.

1. Kirsten Mullen believes H.R. 40 could “undermine” the process of securing actual reparations for Black Americans.

In an op-ed published in Bloomberg, Mullen lamented against H.R. 40, stating that even though the bill has good intentions, it could have adverse results if legislation passed.

“Unfortunately, even if the legislation passes, it’s highly unlikely to deliver true reparations. On the contrary, it could undermine the whole project,” Mullen wrote.

“H.R. 40 is the only draft legislation to raise the issue of redress since the Reconstruction era. Yet it does no more than call for the creation of a U.S. congressional commission to study and develop proposals, while offering little direction on how to proceed,” she continued. “Reparations could end up defined as anything from an elaborate apology to the endorsement of piecemeal and woefully inadequate measures — such as a Vermont effort that invites White people to donate cash to Black people who sign up to receive it, or an Evanston, Illinois program that has so far made available a mere $400,000 to compensate Black families for five decades of housing discrimination.”

2. Mullen believes H.R. 40 contains many structural flaws.

Along with her husband and co-author Dr. William ‘Sandy’ Darity, Mullen makes a compelling case for reparations in the book “From Here To Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century.”

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As a result of her extensive research on the topic, Mullen believes H.R. 40 is full of flaws.

“H.R. 40 contains numerous structural flaws. Among other things, the commission would be exempt from the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which ensures transparency in the form of public hearings, agendas and periodic reports,” Mullen wrote in her op-ed.

“Seven of the commission’s 15 members — which, oddly, the bill considers enough to establish a quorum — would be appointed by the administrative director from the ‘major civil society and reparations organizations’ of that person’s choice.,” she continued. “No elected officials would be allowed to serve, and members would earn salaries of as much as $172,000 a year. The potential outcome: An obscure, unrepresentative process in which coopted members reach an unsatisfactory result, potentially discrediting the very concept.”

3. Kirsten Mullen believes “any proper reparations program should rest on four pillars.”

According to Mullen, no reparations program is complete without the following:

  • Claimants must meet both lineage and identity tests.
  • The redress should bring the average wealth of Black households up to the level of their White counterparts.
  • Payments should be made directly to eligible recipients. 
  • The federal government must pay the debt.

Mullen expounded on her reasoning for her pillars and summed up why she is anti-H.R. 40 despite being pro-reparations.

“H.R. 40 will not deliver reparations to Black descendants of U.S. slavery and should be scrapped,” Mullen concluded her op-ed. “America deserves legislation based on strong moral principles — a congressional mandate to guide the nation in the payment of a debt that is 156 years overdue.”

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