House Takes Significant Step Toward Slavery Reparations

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A Democrat-dominated House panel on Wednesday moved reparations for slavery one step closer to reality by approving a bill that would form a commission to decide how much and in what form black Americans should be compensated for slavery.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 25-17 Wednesday to advance the proposal, according to USA Today. The bill will move to the House for a full vote. If the bill clears the House, it will then go to the Senate, where Democrats can ram through bills requiring a simple majority vote.

The bill, H.R. 40, projects that the commission’s work alone will cost at least $12 million. Estimates of the total cost of reparations are in the range of $12 trillion.

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas said the bill is a “path to restorative justice.”

“By passing H.R. 40, Congress can also start a movement toward the national reckoning we need to bridge racial divides. Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation — and the hope that one day, all Americans can walk together toward a more just future,” Jackson Lee said.

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“That is the basis of this commission, to be able to look globally at the issue of slavery as the original sin and the brutality of it, and to then take the journey as it looks at the stark disparities in the African American community,” she said, according to The Washington Post.

“I hope we will not take the opportunity to point blame or to cast any actions of racism as one party or the other. It was America’s sin and that’s what we hope to address.”

But some pointed to more recent events as requiring federal payments to black Americans.

“Hasn’t the last year educated us or re-educated us about injustices, the historical injustices?” Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, the committee’s vice chair, said, according to USA Today.

“The study of reparations is the reasonable thing to do.”

Some House Republicans, however, disagreed.

“No one should be forced to pay compensation for what they have not done,” Republican Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio said. “Paying reparations would amount to taking money from people who never owned slaves to compensate those who were never enslaved.”

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Former NFL star and Republican Rep. Burgess Owens of Utah said the proposal plays into the Democratic narrative that black Americans — a core Democratic constituency — are helpless, according to The Post.

“Slavery was and still is an evil,” he said. “Reparation is divisive. It speaks to the fact that we are a hapless, hopeless race that never did anything but wait for white people to show up and help us, and it’s a falsehood.”

But Democrats said reparations are essential and any opposition to the idea is wrong.

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“Slavery was indeed ended 150 years ago but racism never took a day off and is alive and well in America,” Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia said.

“You can ask the family members of Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd. Black folks in this country cannot keep living and dying like this. But we’ll be forced to do so if White folks in America continue to refuse to look back at history.”

Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri said Republicans have no right to oppose studying how to pay black Americans what they are owed.

“To the Republicans who are against this legislation, how dare you. How dare your nearly all-White panel puts so much energy and abuse your power to deny justice for the descendants of one the most egregious atrocities in the history of the world,” she said. “You have no idea what that’s like. You don’t know what that’s like. But the least that you can do is support research.”

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