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house Bill H.R. 40

Commissioning A Study To Consider Reparations for African Americans

Argument in favor

Until the U.S. and its inhabitants reckon with their moral debts, this country will never be whole.

Brandon 's Opinion
···
03/28/2015
Having a national conversation about race is vital, even if though I do not support reparations in the form of monetary payments. However, under the language of the bill, the committee could propose other solutions to lingering racial inequalities in America.
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Cameron 's Opinion
···
03/29/2015
A study is not outright approval for reparations. But increasing our attention on the idea of inequality is not a waste of time or money.
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Keegan's Opinion
···
04/10/2015
While I do belIeve American immigrants of varying nationalities were also treated inhumanely and thought of as less than equal, none were outright stolen from their homes and forced into slavery. It is time for an open, honest national discussion about the various methods of subjugation, both during and after slavery, and the continuing affects that has had on the black community.
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Argument opposed

Yes, African Americans were brutalized, but so were other groups — you don’t see them asking for free money.

Allen's Opinion
···
04/01/2015
As an African-American male, I feel overt and covert racism all the time. I also feel that most people opposing this legislation seem to downgrade the significance of centuries of slavery to our ancestors. Nevertheless, I do not believe receiving some monetary compensation will make right the atrocities of the past. I think this will create greater resentment and outweigh the goal of unity between the races. We need greater education for our community and America as a whole.
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Brian's Opinion
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03/28/2015
The country needs to realize this period of our history is done and steps can be made to improve race relations without special treatment and handouts
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Gary a's Opinion
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03/28/2015
History shows that the Irish, Chinese and others too were enslaved. It's historically a worldwide event. Get with it, the people who were affected have long since passed away.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJanuary 6th, 2015

What is House Bill H.R. 40?

This bill is tasked with a more daunting goal than perhaps any other. Its goal is to make amends for the enslavement of African American people. It would try and do so by establishing, as its name suggests, a commission to investigate reparations.


The commission would examine:

  • The practice of slavery, addressing elements such as how Africans were captured, transported to, and sold in the United States;
  • The ways in which federal and state governments supported slavery;
  • The effects slavery had, and continues to have on the lives of African Americans after it ended, and any other types of discrimination that they face.


There’s plenty of information about those things though, here’s the hard part. Based on these findings, the commission would have to put forth a recommendation on how the U.S. can recompense for slavery and ongoing forms of discrimination. Specifically, it would have to determine if financial compensation to the descendants of slaves is warranted and, if so, how much it should be, and how it should be distributed.


The commission would be made up of three individuals appointed by the President, three appointed by the Speaker of the House, and one person appointed by the President pro tempore. The commission would have one year to conduct its research.

Impact

African Americans in the U.S., the President, the Speaker of the House, the President pro tempore of the Senate, taxpayers.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 40

$8.00 Million
A CBO cost estimate is unavailable. The bill would, however, appropriate $8 million to carry out its work.

More Information

In Depth:

It’s not unusual for a member of Congress to introduce the same piece of legislation for two years in a row — click through a couple other bills and you’re sure to find a bill for which this is the case — but this legislation is special. Sponsoring Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced it every single year since 1989, and says he’ll do so until it passes.


Though it hasn’t passed in twenty-five years of introductions, Rep. Conyers has already outlasted Congress once. He began introducing legislation to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a holiday in 1968. It passed fifteen years later, in 1983.


Unlike other bills that get introduced repeatedly, the number on this one has stayed the same. It’s always been H.R. 40, in remembrance of the forty acres and a mule that the U.S. promised African Americans freed from slavery after the Civil War.


Of Note: 

The idea of reparations isn’t exactly new — that forty acres and a mule was arguably the first type proposed. Martin Luther King, Jr. called for them in the 60's, as well. But the idea has received increased attention since the publication of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations” in The Atlantic in 2014. The 16,000 word essay set a new traffic record for the site and ignited a debate from publications across the mediaspehere.


As Coates explains it, it’s not just slavery that has harmed African Americans, it’s the innumerable discriminatory practices adopted by whites since then: Jim Crow laws, sharecropping, redlining, predatory lending. These affect African Americans’ status today. Coates cites a Pew Research Center finding that states, on average, white households are worth twenty times as much as black households.


Media:

Sponsoring Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) Press Release

The Atlantic: The Case for Reparations

Forbes (Opposed)

Gawker

NPR (Previous Bill Version)


Summary by James Helmsworth
 
(Photo Credit: Flickr user Steve Snodgrass

AKA

Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act

Official Title

To acknowledge 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 examine the institution of slavery, subsequently 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.

    Having a national conversation about race is vital, even if though I do not support reparations in the form of monetary payments. However, under the language of the bill, the committee could propose other solutions to lingering racial inequalities in America.
    Like (89)
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    As an African-American male, I feel overt and covert racism all the time. I also feel that most people opposing this legislation seem to downgrade the significance of centuries of slavery to our ancestors. Nevertheless, I do not believe receiving some monetary compensation will make right the atrocities of the past. I think this will create greater resentment and outweigh the goal of unity between the races. We need greater education for our community and America as a whole.
    Like (225)
    Follow
    Share
    The country needs to realize this period of our history is done and steps can be made to improve race relations without special treatment and handouts
    Like (136)
    Follow
    Share
    History shows that the Irish, Chinese and others too were enslaved. It's historically a worldwide event. Get with it, the people who were affected have long since passed away.
    Like (87)
    Follow
    Share
    A study is not outright approval for reparations. But increasing our attention on the idea of inequality is not a waste of time or money.
    Like (76)
    Follow
    Share
    I didn't do it, my family imigrated at the the turn of the last century, and the last slave died long ago. Let it go, if your life is screwed up it's your fault not mine.
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    This is another example of living in the past. Talk like this is what cause problems in regards to race. It's been 150 years since the Civil War, 50 years since the Civil Rights movement, and we currently have a black President. It's time to move forward.
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    While I do belIeve American immigrants of varying nationalities were also treated inhumanely and thought of as less than equal, none were outright stolen from their homes and forced into slavery. It is time for an open, honest national discussion about the various methods of subjugation, both during and after slavery, and the continuing affects that has had on the black community.
    Like (31)
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    Opposition needs to understand this period in our history IS NOT over and it STILL needs to be addressed. Prisons full of African Americans is how we say sorry? Generations of African Americans are in prisons. It is despicable and I am not proud of it.
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    Slavery, Jim Crow, Separate but Equal, exclusion from WWII provisions, redlining, displacement of disadvantaged communities, voter restrictions, mass incarceration--these are all factors (and there are more) that have compounded over 250+ years that have resulted in the systemic racism we see today. An actual study is long overdue to address the effects of discriminatory policies sanctioned/allowed by the government. Only once America actually reckons with what it has done time and time again to certain groups of people (including Native Americans, Latinos, Women, etc.) will we be able to move forward from the pain. Turning a blind eye will only continue to exacerbate the issues. Remember: this bill is only talking about a study.
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    Only 1.4% owned slaves at it most prolific [1860] and MANY of them were BLACK slave holders. Are we going to make reparations to the other 98.6% who were ABOLITIONISTS [mostly Whites] who risked all to FREE Blacks? It's time to know the truth
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    Who the heck are we going to make reparations to? "Slave descendants" OK, well how are we going to do that realistically? Who gets them? People who have any black lineage? People who look black? Only people who are entirely black? Only people who have slave ancestry? Do those people have to prove they have at least one slave ancestor? Seriously, there's no realistic way to do this, and it's better if we all just accept that it happened, forgive and move on.
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    I typically don't read the full proposals but it's a GREAT read. The information that they're attempting to acquire is necessary to understanding race relations in America as a result of the brutality African Americans endured. This would be a great thing to look into for all marginalized groups in America. If we don't know and understand our past, we'll be doomed to live in willful ignorance of it. (Also, this study isn't saying MONETARY reparations are the only solution.) Don't let your biases stop a good thing!!
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    As a white American in the South, I have benefited from the institution of slavery even though it was over 200 years ago. Specifically, the institution of slavery allowed and was the catalyst for generations of racial segregation, degradation, and exploitation. I believe it is the duty of all white Americans to at least allow a commission to study and have a dialogue about the issue of reparations.
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    Its alot more complicated then "we enslaved african americans" there were white slaves, jewish slaves, native american slaves, the list gies on. Making a bill for just one group and calling it a day excludes the other groups and is just around to make white hipsters feel better about themselves. This is a bandaid fix on a large problem that spanned hundreds of years. More over how exactly are you going to make ammends to the great great great grand son for somehing that happened to his family generations ago?
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    Native Americans and Japanese Americans have received some sort of compensation for the reckless actions of our government. Even the Jewish community received compensation from our government after WW2 despite our government not being the source of their woes. For over 200 years, African-American slaves built the economic foundation for every industry in this country and their continued oppression maintains the wealth and privilege of a select few.
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    Thankfully, there are no African slaves in the United States today. Mission accomplished!
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    What about the Irish Americans
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    As a African American Male teen and President of my city's NAACP Youth Council I'm all about racial equality however I think this'll be a huge step backwards and will cause a lot of new hate when we should be working to peace and unity. Right now reparations are the least of our worries as we as a people have way bigger problems to deal with
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    My view of this concept is evolving and I think it's time we use some of our extremely wealthy individuals to level the playing-field. After all we have billionaires that have all the breaks.
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