“The markup of H.R. 40 by the Judiciary Committee is a major step toward the creation of a long-overdue national commission to study and develop reparation proposals. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
The House Judiciary Committee on April 14 passed legislation to advance legislation that establishes a commission to examine slavery and discrimination in the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.
The 10 a.m. session on Capitol Hill, which invited lively debate and stretched into the night, was the first-ever markup of H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, which was first introduced about three decades ago.
“Why is this significant now to have a markup in this historic moment in our history? The bill was introduced a year after the Civil Liberties Act that provided reparations for our Japanese-Americans, and we as African Americans supported it,” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) said during a news conference with African American media members.
“The bill would allow the country to finally confront the stark social disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions,” Jackson-Lee, the bill’s lead sponsor, stated.
The historic markup of H.R. 40 is intended to continue a national conversation about how to confront the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the enduring structural racism that remains endemic to American society today added House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
“Long after slavery was abolished, segregation and subjugation of African Americans was a defining part of this nation’s policies that shaped its values and its institutions,” Nadler remarked.
“Today, we still live with racial disparities in access to education, health care, housing, insurance, employment, and other social goods that are directly attributable to the damaging legacy of slavery and government-sponsored racial discrimination,” Nadler remarked.
“The creation of a commission under H.R. 40 to study these issues is not intended to divide, but to continue the efforts commenced by states, localities and private institutions to reckon with our past and bring us closer to racial understanding and advancement.”
While a specific monetary value on reparations isn’t outlined in the bill, it does focus on investigating and presenting the facts and truth about the unprecedented centuries of brutal enslavement of African people, racial healing, and transformation.
The bill would fund a commission to study and develop proposals for providing reparations to African Americans.
The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and on society.
“Since its introduction in 1989 by the late Chairman John Conyers, and now through its continued introduction, H.R. 40 has galvanized governmental acknowledgment of the crime of slavery and its continuing societal impact,” Jackson Lee maintained.
And, she added, the creation of a commission would go a long way toward overdue restitution.
“Through this legislation, we will finally be able to confront the stark societal disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions,” she said. “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.”