On Wednesday the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held its first meeting in 10 years on reparations, a process where the government compensates for the horrors and continued trauma that the Transatlantic Slave Trade evoked on the now living descendants of American slavery.
The hearing incidentally coincided with Juneteenth, a day that commemorates when those who remained enslaved in Texas after the Emancipation Proclamation, learned they were free.
The bill was drafted by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and would allow for the creation of a “national apology” commission for slavery and the discrimination that followed for slave descendants, which could also include compensation, POLITICO reports.
In attendance at the hearing was prolific writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose 2014 Atlantic article, The Case For Reparations, thrust him into the national spotlight as he outlined why the government should indeed grant monetary compensation for slave descendants. Danny Glover, the revered actor, was also in attendance and shared that his grandfather was a former slave, the arc of history only missed by one generation.
“James Baldwin, the great writer once said, ‘if we can’t tell the truth about the past, we become trapped in it,” Glover said at the hearing. “This country is trapped in not telling the truth.”
The hearing comes after Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell scoffed at the idea on Tuesday by arguing that the nation’s governing body has tried to amend for America’s original sin and that the election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president.
“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” McConnell said at a press conference. “We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a Civil War, by passing landmark civil rights legislation, by electing an African American president.”
Coates responded directly to McConnell’s comment at the hearing in a passionate speech.
According to POLITICO, the House Democratic leaders said they would consider a floor vote to begin looking into reparations for slave descendants.
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