In Historic Move, House Panel Advances Reparations Legislation to Study Impact of Slavery and Racism

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) speaks during a hearing on slavery reparations held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on June 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The subcommittee debated the H.R. 40 bill, which proposes a commission be formed to study and develop reparation proposals for African-Americans.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) speaks during a hearing on slavery reparations held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on June 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The subcommittee debated the H.R. 40 bill, which proposes a commission be formed to study and develop reparation proposals for African-Americans.
Photo: Zach Gibson (Getty Images)

After decades of trying to get America to start the process of reckoning with its history of slavery and its contemporary effects, a House panel advanced legislation that would support a study to figure out how to address the issue. This is the first time that the House Judiciary Committee has acted on the legislation, CBS News reports.

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Black democratic lawmakers have been fighting in Congress for decades to get reparations for America’s Black population, but have often faced roadblocks from Republicans. Originally introduced by the late John Conyers in 1989, the legislation referred to as H.R. 40, has gone through many changes over the years.

The legislation would allow for the formation of a commission to study the impacts of slavery and discrimination in America from 1619 to the present. From there, the commission would suggest ways to educate Americans about the results of the study, share solutions on how to address all forms of racism, what an apology would look like and what type of compensation should be offered.

The lead sponsor, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), said the legislation could be go to the full House floor for a vote this summer.

Of course, Republicans don’t want this, per CBS News:

Still, the House bill has no Republicans among its 176 co-sponsors and would need 60 votes in the evenly divided Senate, 50-50, to overcome a filibuster. Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were unanimous in voting against the measure.

Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the committee, said the commission’s makeup would lead to a foregone conclusion in support of reparations.

“Spend $20 million for a commission that’s already decided to take money from people who were never involved in the evil of slavery and give it to people who were never subject to the evil of slavery. That’s what Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are doing,” Jordan said.

Other Republicans pretty much gave the same BS explanation.

“Forty years later, we’re now electing a president of the United States, a Black man. Vice president of the United States, a Black woman. And we say there’s no progress?” Rep. Burgess Owens, an African-American lawmaker from Utah, said. “Those who say there’s no progress are those who do not want progress.”

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OK.

But communities at the local level have already experimented with what reparations could look like:

Last month, the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, became the first U.S. city to make reparations available to its Black residents for past discrimination and the lingering effects of slavery. The money will come from the sale of recreational marijuana and qualifying households would receive $25,000 for home repairs, down payments on property, and interest or late penalties on property in the city.

Other communities and organizations considering reparations range from the state of California to cities like Amherst, Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island; Asheville, North Carolina; and Iowa City, Iowa; religious denominations like the Episcopal Church; and prominent colleges like Georgetown University in Washington.

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As long overdue as reparations are, the current makeup of Congress will make passage of this study—we haven’t even gotten to the giving Black folks money part, yet—dead on arrival.

It doesn’t mean Democrats shouldn’t try anyway.

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior reporter at The Root. He is currently writing a book proposal that analyzes US-Russia relations from a black perspective.

DISCUSSION

detroitkidelo
kidelo (i have a tiktok)

Just came here from the comment section of the NYT article about the same.

People who don’t want us to study the possibility of reparations are extremely butthurt. Their zero-sum mentality is indicative of the white privilege that is endemic in our nation.

The arguments are as banal as you’d expect: I didn’t own slaves so why should my tax dollars go to reparations. Reparations don’t work (even though Germany has been paying them for some years now to Jewish victims of the Holocaust). The real problem is _____________ (education, wealth inequality, being given too much already...). Why do we have to keep talking about the past? No one alive now was a slave or owned them!

So much willful ignorance.