The revived debate on the Reparations issue reminds us all that the struggle for social, political and economic justice for African Americans continues as discussion on HR- 40, the proposed legislation, came to the U.S. Congress.
At the congressional hearing that was held on Juneteenth Day, the testimonies around economic and restorative justice centered on the 250 years of unpaid labor and its dividends to the American economy.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee reintroduced HR-40 which was originally introduced 30 years ago by then-Congressman John Conyers. The HR-40 legislation calls for the establishment of a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans.
The commission will gather the facts and report the findings.
No conclusions are to be made until a public hearing process on those facts has been held.
Those public conclusions should expose the structural and institutional changes and reforms required to eradicate all damages and barriers that are the legacy of chattel slavery.
The focus of the Reparations Movement has shifted to economic justice. In her testimony in Congress on Juneteenth Day, renowned economist Dr. Julienne Malveau refers to “Post Enslavement Racially Hostile Public Policy” and government complicity in white supremacy as a legacy of slavery. Race-based disparities in America must be identified and repaired by eliminating existing structural and institutional barriers.
Journalist and author Ta- Nehisi Coates testified about his findings in researching his book “The Case for Reparations: “Governmental discrimination is baked into our governmental institutions as well as the persistently segregated private social ordering that those institutions brought about.”
Malveau further testified that “Local, State and Federal governments were active perpetrators of race- targeted discrimination against and in domination of African Americans during slavery, Jim Crow and beyond.” According to Dr. Malveau, the federal government and some states excluded African Americans from such wealth creation giveaways as 160-acre land grants that effectively restricted Black peoples’ ability to participate in the national growth economy.
Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) race-based policy, especially redlining, restricted the ability to accumulate wealth that is traditionally passed to subsequent generations in a family. Discrimination in these wealth-creating devices are only the tip of the iceberg. The HR-40 study is needed to uncover the underlying scope and size of the hidden damages and continuing discrimination and barriers.
The opposition to the study Commission completely ignored the fact that the study calls for no conclusion as to remedies to the uncovered iceberg. Agreement as to the facts presented will proceed to a public hearing process on what conclusions can be reasonably drawn from the established facts. Uninformed Americans are likened to passengers on the Titanic sailing toward the unseen iceberg while the MAGA Band plays on at the Grand Old Party.
The future of the nation as a self-governing experiment in democracy is facing racial division and disparities that will sear the soul of the nation. ‘Citizen’ is the highest office in the nation and now is the time for public mobilization to make our voices heard. HR-40 is now in the House Judiciary subcommittee on Civil Rights and Liberties chaired by Rep. Steve Cohen, (D-Tenn.), specifically the city where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The ranking member is Rep. Mike Johnson, (R- La.), the home of Grambling University. Both congressmen’s offices in Wash., D.C., should be flooded with your communications and concerns. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is the author of HR-40 taking over from John Conyers who authored it 30 years ago. Send correspondence to her D.C. office as well.