Thanks to a compromise between Southern slaveholders who wanted enslaved blacks counted in the population, for the sake of boosting Southern congressional representation, and Northern whites who didn’t, the framers enshrined the three-fifths clause in the Constitution. This agreement set the census value of a slave as 60 percent of the value of a free person. Even after the 13th Amendment neutralized the political (and moral) compromise by abolishing slavery, Jim Crow laws, which contravened the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equality, stopped blacks from voting. The just answer today is to invert that ratio. If black Americans were once counted as three-fifths of a person, let each African American voter now count as five-thirds.
Reparations in America have come to mean “free” money, so any serious discussion about them also mandates a discussion of how much — an exercise doomed to failure. Other ways of imagining reparations (as the spilled blood of more than half a million Union soldiers during the Civil War; as affirmative action in universities and workplaces; as subsidized education) don’t involve cash payments, but they also don’t do enough to combat the structural disadvantages black Americans face — disadvantages that have gone largely unaddressed by our legislative and executive branches.
Under the constitution an African American slave was originally counted as three fifths of a person for the purpose of determining a state's electoral vote count and House representation. That boosted the power of slave states in the federal government.
What if we now turned that ratio upside down? To make up for past racial injustices, what if in elections the United States counted an African American voter as five thirds of a person?
Read the rest here.