The Debate For Reparations Reaches Capitol Hill: Testimonies Urge Congress To Provide Compensation To Descendants Of Slaves
The House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties hearing on slavery reparations took place on Wednesday, Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, which commemorates the emancipation of black slaves in the U.S. in 1865.
Juneteenth is currently a holiday in 46 states in the U.S. with Pennsylvania becoming the latest state to do after Gov. Tom Wolf made it official earlier today.
Democrat U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson proposed the bill House Resolution 40 that would set up a commission to study and develop reparation proposal for African Americans.
“The original sin slavery has never received an apology, this commission will be comprised of members selected by the President of the United States, the speaker of the house, the leader and of course those who have been entrenched in this process,” said Jackson.
The established commission would study the negative impacts of slavery and make recommendations for reparations proposals.
Actor Danny Glover and author Ta-Nehisi Coates were among eight witnesses who testified for their support for H.R. 40 and urged Congress for over three hours to support the resolution.
“It is impossible to imagine America without the inheritance of slavery,” said Coates.”For a century after the civil war, black people were subject to a relentess campaign of terror, a campaign that extended weill into the lifetime of majority leader McConnel.”
Coates mentioned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel after the republican rejected the idea of compensating descendants of slavery.
“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea,” said McConnel on Tuesday.
The last time Congress held a hearing for reparations was in 2007, but the hot topic has gained momentum with Jackson sponsoring the resolution in 2017.
“Despite much progress over the centuries, this hearing is yet another important step in the long and heroic struggle of African Americans, reparations for damage inflicted by enslavement, emancipation and racial exclusionary policies,” said Glover.
“Think about what we’re doing today, we’re spending our time debating a bill that mentions slavery 25 times and incarceration only once, a bill that doesn’t mention homicide once when the centers for disease control says homicide is the number one cause of death for young black men,” said Coleman Hughes an author and columnist who is opposed of H.R. 40.
“The relationship between black Americans and white Americans from a coalition into a transaction, from a union between citizens into a lawsuit between plaintiffs and defendants,” he continued.
During Hughes testimony, members in the audience were heard booing.
Burgess Owens, a former NFL pro-football player for the Oakland Raiders and Fox News contributor, also testified against the measure.
“I do not believe in reparations because what reparations does is it points to a certain race, to a certain color and it points them as evil,” said Burgess. “It points the other race, my race, as one that is not only racist but beggars.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has backed the bill but has not set a date for marking up the bill in the full Judiciary Committee.