Leaders of a North Texas county declared Tuesday that African Americans deserve reparations for slavery. But it seems they did so without knowing it.
The Dallas County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to pass a Juneteenth resolution commemorating the day Texas slaves learned of their freedom. It was written by John Wiley Price, the only black commissioner, who also read the proclamation aloud before the vote.
Reading such proclamations before a vote is routine. That same night, commissioners voted to support Men’s Health Month, the American Kidney Fund and to recognize a county employee’s 25 years of service. But it seems they should have been listening more closely to the Juneteenth proclamation.
Price’s fellow commissioners apparently did not notice the final paragraph, which declared that the suffering of African Americans should be “satisfied with monetary and substantial reparations.”
Many of the commissioners admitted after the meeting that they had not read the document before voting on it.
Commissioner Mike Cantrell, the court’s only Republican, later asked that his vote be changed to an abstention.
“The reason why I didn’t abstain this morning is that I had not received a copy of the resolution,” Cantrell told the The Dallas Morning News.
Price said he got the idea for the resolution from a magazine article he had read recently. The article made the case for monetary reparations to be paid to African Americans. He pointed out that Japanese Americans and American Indians have all received compensation for past mistreatment.
“We are the only people who haven’t been compensated,” he said.
Other commissioners were unwilling to debate the issue, but said they were upset that they had not had a chance to see the resolution before the vote.
“I want to encourage staff to make sure that all of the commissioners have the opportunity to actually read what they are voting on before that vote in the future,” County Judge Clay Jenkins said, according to The Associated Press.
Jenkins said he would not change his vote.
“I am leaving my vote the way it is,” he said. “This is the body’s expression of support for unity towards people, a recognition of Juneteenth.”
The resolution is nonbinding so no tax money will be allocated for reparations as a result of the vote.