A House panel will hold a hearing next week on the topic of reparations for slavery.
The House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties is set to hold a hearing June 19 on legislation that would establish a commission to study the consequences and impacts of slavery and make recommendations for reparations proposals. The hearing is titled “H.R. 40 and the Path to Restorative Justice.”
The bill is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. The bill would create a commission of 13 members who would compile a report of findings and recommendations on the issue and send it to Congress. Former Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, who served until 2017, had previously introduced legislation on reparations repeatedly over the span of multiple sessions of Congress.
For decades, reparations for slavery has mostly been an idea debated outside the mainstream of American political thought.
Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates put a spotlight on the subject with a widely-read piece, “The Case for Reparations,” in 2014 in The Atlantic.
“The real issue is whether and how this nation can come to grips with the legacy of slavery that still infects current society,” Jackson Lee said in a statement in January.
“While we have focused on the social effects of slavery and segregation, its continuing economic implications remain largely ignored by mainstream analysis,” Jackson Lee said, adding, “These economic issues are the root cause of many critical issues in the African-American community today, such as education, healthcare and criminal justice policy, including policing practices.”
The issue of reparations has gotten attention in the 2020 Democratic primary with Democratic candidates, including Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren as well as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, addressing the issue on the campaign trail.
During a CNN town hall in Jackson, Mississippi, in March, Warren argued that because of housing and employment discrimination, “We live in a world where the average white family has $100 (and) the average black family has about $5.”
“So I believe it’s time to start the national full-blown conversation about reparations in this country,” Warren said. “And that means I support the bill in the House to appoint a congressional panel of experts, people that are studying this and talk about different ways we may be able to do it and make a report back to Congress, so that we can as a nation do what’s right and begin to heal.”
CNN’s Doug Criss, Maeve Reston and Gregory Krieg contributed to this report.