Reparations for the descendants of slaves is taking center stage in the House of Representatives today. A committee is holding a hearing on a proposal to form a commission to examine this controversial issue. But even though the commission has the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many Democrats running for president, it faces tough opposition in Congress.
The hearing is set to examine H.R. 40, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). This legislation would, in the words of the bill,
…address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.
The committee’s scheduled list of witnesses include actor Danny Glover and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who wrote an article in 2014 that helped reignite the conversation about reparations.
Those who support reparations point to the long history of legally-sanctioned slavery and discrimination in the United States. They argue that this legacy still affects the descendants of slaves, so the government should compensate those individuals. Opponents of reparations counter that the U.S. fought a war to end slavery, and that no slave is currently living.
Reparations have been raised by some Democrats who are running for president. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also supports forming a commission to examine this issue. Senator Mitch McConnell, however, has said that even if H.R. 40 passes the House, it will be dead in the Senate. The legislation has near-universal Republican opposition, and even some Democrats express skepticism about it.
Today’s hearing if the first time that a congressional committee has examined reparations.
Do you support reparations for the descendants of slaves? If so, what should slavery reparations look like?