Fact-Finding is the First Step in Reparations Discussion

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Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
Leo Bazile

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.

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