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Since the first ship of enslaved African people landed in Virginia in 1619, racist policies in institutions, systems, structures, practices, and laws have ensured inequity for people of color. These racist policies include every imaginable variant of injustice from slavery to lynching, to segregation, and to economic injustices, including those delivered through tax systems today. Although facially color-blind, tax systems have long empowered the explosion of white wealth and undermined wealth accumulation for Black families and communities of color. State and local tax systems, especially in the South, have deeply-rooted racist fiscal policies, including Jim Crow laws that continue to sustain and bolster racial inequality today. These injustices have become even more obvious during the global pandemic.

As Americans struggle with COVID-19 and its aftermath, racial inequality has become even more salient. People of color have suffered higher rates of unemployment, impoverishment, infection, and death from COVID-19. Moreover, scientists, economists, engineers, and doctors agree that racism, not race, is the cause of this disproportionate impact. As we struggle to battle COVID-19 and rebuild from its devastation, federal, state, and local governments have used many tools, including tax systems. In 2021, the federal government, together with twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, enacted significant tax cuts, with nearly all states cutting individual income tax rates and many tax systems meaningfully delivering expanded tax credits for workers and their children.

With race increasingly front and center as a cause of economic inequality, this Article applies Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s transformative concept of antiracism as the framework to rethink state and local tax systems to better serve all Americans. Deriving an antiracist framework from decades of exhaustive research, Dr. Kendi, a professor of history, international relations, and an award-winning author, has facilitated a broader understanding of racism, its poisonous consequences, and most importantly provides antiracist tools to dismantle it.

Publication Citation

52 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1531 (2022).