Congress held its first hearing on reparations for slavery since the May 2020 death of George Floyd, which reignited the Black Lives Matter movement.
Members of the Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties met over Zoom Wednesday to discuss H.R. 40, which aims to ‘establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery.’
Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who’s spearheading the effort, argued her case with images, holding up pictures of a beaten slave and lynched black Americans.
‘This was our life, the back of a beaten slave. This was our life in to the 20th century, hangings of African-Americans, men and women. This was our life, when we were in public display, brutalized,’ the Texas congresswoman said, showing several grisly images.
She put those images in the Congressional record.
Democrats brought in academics, civil rights leaders and California’s new secretary of state, Shirley Weber, as witnesses, to discuss why H.R. 40 should be passed.
The resolution to study reparations was first introduced by the now late Rep. John Conyers in 1989 and was named after the ’40 acres and a mule’ that freed black Americans had been promised, but then the federal government didn’t act on.
It would green light a commission to study the issue.
A number of Democratic witnesses argued that the term ‘reparations’ stands for more than just financial hand-outs.
‘Popular conceptions of reparations are often fairly narrow, focusing only on financial compensation. But by contrast the international system places emphasis on a more comprehensive approach, according which financial compensation may certainly be necessary, but not sufficient,’ explained UCLA law professor Tendayi Achiume, who advises the United Nations. ‘Other required measures may include transforming the political, economic and social institutions and mechanisms for disclosing truth and restoring dignity for those subject to racial subordination, resulting from legacies of enslavesment,’ Achiume explained.
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