MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A heated discussion about race and history took place at the Shelby County Commission meeting Wednesday as members explored the possibility of reparations for slavery.

Members approved the funding of $5 million for a “feasibility study,” to address areas such as affordable housing, healthcare, the criminal justice system, career opportunities and wealth.

But the decision did not come without disagreements.

“Personally, I see this resolution as un-American in a lot of ways,” said Commissioner Brandon Morrison. “I believe it would not help Black people, but rather it would hurt them. I think the money would be much better spent [on] workforce initiatives and finding ways to elevate.”

Commissioner Erika Sugarmon was not pleased with Morrison’s remark. “I’ve had grandfathers, a father, my daughter. We have generations that have served this country. Don’t dare say that I’m un-American.”

Shelby County — home to Memphis — isn’t the only community in America talking about reparations. Officials in Detroit, San Francisco, Asheville, North Carolina and Evanston, Illinois, have all taken steps toward giving money to the descendants of slaves.

While some county commissioners fear this would sharpen divisions between white and Black residents, others say it could uplift the community.

According to the United States Census, African Americans make up 54.6 percent of Shelby County’s population and 64.6 percent of Memphis alone.

The resolution also comes on the heels of widespread outrage over the police beating death of Tyre Nichols.

One commissioner says the study is more than just about money.

“It ain’t about just giving money to Black folk,” Commissioner Charlie Caswell Jr. said. “It ain’t about just giving a Black man a check or a Black woman a check. It’s about studying what we have failed to address and address it so we can move forward.”

Thursday on WREG’s Live at 9, Democratic Representative Antonio Parkinson said the reparation study is long overdue.

“I applaud the Shelby County Commission for their courage, for their political courage to put this effort forward,” Parkinson said. “It’s needed. It’s long past due and I’m thankful to our county commisioners who’ve vote to put that money aside to ensure that reparations are studied for our people.”