Posted on February 19, 2021

Congress Holds Reparations for Slavery Hearing for First Time Since BLM Protests Rocked the Nation

Nikki Schwab, Daily Mail, February 17, 2021

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.


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.

And some witnesses pointed out that reparations have been given out by the government before.

Kathy Masaoka, co-chair of the Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, spoke of the reparations given to interned Japanese Americans, and also noted that the commission hearings – which H.R. 40 would green light for African-American reparations – helped the healing process in the community.

North Carolina Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross spoke about how her state has come up with reparations for forced sterilization by the government.

‘I don’t believe that this particular resolution prescribes a way of going forward, but it’s a conversation about what we need to do,’ Ross said. ‘And just as we did in North Carolina, when we passed a bill compensating people for forced sterilization, a terrible, terrible chapter in our history.’

Committee Republicans brought in former National Football League player Herschel Walker and talk show host Larry Elder as their guests.

Walker mainly argued about the impracticality of a reparations policy.

‘How many African-Americans was alive today that was in slavery? Which is none. So I go to some of the older people for experience and I remember my mom mentioning, how could we pay for your great, great, great grandfather being burned to death? Or how could we pay for your great, great uncle being hung? And I understand that those pictures are horrible,’ Walker said, mentioning the lynching photos Jackson Lee had showed those participating in the hearing. {snip}

Walker also asked: ‘Where would the money from from? Does it come from all the other races except the black taxpayers? Who is black? What percentage of black must you be to receive reparations? Do you go to 23andMe or a DNA test to determine the percentage of blackness?’

Elder agued that systemic racism is not the main problem.

‘Obviously there are black people who are poor, the extend of which the poverty is a result of slavery and Jim Crow is tenuous at best,’ Elder said. ‘The larger factor behind black povery is the absense of fathers in the home.’

Elder also called reparations for slavery the ‘greatest generational transfers of wealth back and forth, because virtually every people on the face of the earth was involved in slavery.’