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senate Bill S. 1083

Should a Federal Commission Study Ways to Make Reparations to African-Americans?

Argument in favor

The legacies of slavery and other forms of discrimination, such as domestic terrorism in the post-Civil War South and redlining, have disadvantaged African-Americans in American society for generations. They have led to lower household wealth, lower educational attainment, and more damage to the African-American community. Reparations are the only way to right this historic wrong.

Antonio's Opinion
···
08/30/2019
Every last one of you who commented no just showed your true colors. No one had a problem paying the Native Americans. No one had a problem paying the Japanese you interned during WW2. No one had a problem paying the Jews after the same war. But Descendants of Blacks? The same ones you considered property and traded like stock, never. You tell us to forget the past. But want to remember the Alamo, Holocaust and the Civil War. The Left and the Right don’t agree on much. But they do agree not to pay Black Americans despite having full knowledge of the documented atrocities of slavery. Willful ignorance. SMH. And money is not even what we are even asking for. Crazy how you all think is an understatement. Hypocrisy is a better term for it.
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William 's Opinion
···
08/30/2019
Reparations... root word “repair”. The purpose of reparations is to repair the damage caused by white supremacy and its negative effects on American Descendants of Chattel Slavery. This study needs to focus its priority on repairing the damages racism has done within the institutions that make up the fabric of American society. Anything else would be passion without direction.
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jimK's Opinion
···
08/30/2019
Reparations have been discussed but, to my knowledge, have never really been fully studied to arrive at any deliberated consensus of what would be equitable. There are a lot of issues that need to be carefully thought out to ensure that reparations are just, practicable and affordable. Between those arguing 'not my problem' and those looking for broad entitlements instead of reparations- many will be unhappy with any formula or solution found. That is why the proposed commission's work will be so important.
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Argument opposed

Reparations are unrealistic, incredibly politically divisive, and difficult to target properly. The basic question of who should be eligible for reparations has so many possible answers, it’s nearly impossible to be sure who should actually be eligible. This close to an election year, this legislation is a cynical attempt to win African-American votes.

SneakyPete's Opinion
···
08/30/2019
I’m strongly opposed and Do Not recommend the passage of the bill H.R. 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act which would establish a 13-member Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. It would charge the commission with examining slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the U.S. from 1619 to the present and recommending appropriate remedies.  Reparations are unrealistic, incredibly politically divisive, and difficult to target properly. The basic question of who should be eligible for reparations has so many possible answers, it’s nearly impossible to be sure who should actually be eligible. This close to an election year, this legislation is a cynical attempt to win African-American votes. SneakyPete..... 👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻. 8.30.19......
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Denise's Opinion
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08/30/2019
Black males were allowed to vote before white females, what reparations will you be making for me?
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AmericaIsARepublic's Opinion
···
08/30/2019
Stop this clownish nonsense! Nobody owes anyone else anything at all for what happened in the distant past. No one alive today had anything to do with it. It’s long since over with. Let it go. This is trite political pandering. It’s embarrassing.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedApril 9th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 1083?

This bill — the H.R. 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act — would establish a 13-member Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. It would charge the commission with examining slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the U.S. from 1619 to the present and recommending appropriate remedies. 

Among other requirements, the commission would examine:

  • Federal and state governments’ role in supporting the institution of slavery;
  • Forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants; and 
  • Lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society.

This bill would authorize $12 million for the commission. The commission’s membership would consist of three members appointed by the president, three by the House, one by the Senate, and six from organizations that have championed racial justice.

Impact

African-Americans; legacy of slavery and other discrimination against African-Americans in the U.S.; reparations to African-Americans; and federal consideration of ways to provide remedies to African-Americans for slavery and other forms of discrimination.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 1083

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, introduced this bill to study slavery’s impact on African-Americans and suggest proposals that would help repay descendants of slaves for the costs of centuries of racial discrimination:

“We cannot address the institutional racism and white supremacy that has economically oppressed African-Americans for generations without first fully documenting the extent of the harms of slavery and its painful legacy. It’s important that we right the wrongs of our nation’s most discriminatory policies, which halted the upward mobility of African-American communities. I’m encouraged to see this legislation to study the issue gain support in Congress and the shared commitment my colleagues have in doing our part to repair the harm done to African-Americans.”

Speaking at a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing about this bill on June 19 (deliberately scheduled for “Juneteeth,” a holiday commemorating the day of emancipation for slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865 as well as the general emancipation of all slaves), Sen. Booker observed that the country has “yet to truly acknowledge and grapple with the racism and white supremacy that tainted this country's founding and continues to cause persistent and deep racial disparities and inequality. These disparities don't just harm black communities, they harm all communities." Sen. Booker argued that African-Americans deserve compensation not only for slavery, but also for the legacy of domestic terrorism against them post-Civil War, segregation, and redlining (a practice used by mortgage providers to keep African-Americans from obtaining mortgages). He said, “We as a nation must address these persistent inequalities. It's about time we find common ground and common purpose to deal with this ugly history."

Economist Julianne Malveaux also testified in favor of reparations at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. She argued that all white people benefited from the fruits of slavery, even if they or their ancestors were not involved, and said that it’s “more than time for us to deal with the injustices that African Americans not only have experienced in history but continue to experience.” Observing that “[e]nslavement is the foundation on which this country was built,” she argued that focusing specifically on racial economic inequality is necessary: 

“Racism and slavery was our original sins, and we've got to deal with reparations by dealing exactly with that. Let's not forget that race is central to anything we do related to economic inequality… I want y'all Congress people to deal with economic structure.”

In addition to Sen. Booker, several candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have expressed interest in reparations. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (who said he wasn’t in support of traditional reparations for African-Americans at an event in Iowa in March 2019), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro have all expressed some form of support for reparations. Sen. Warren has extended her call for reparations to include Native Americans and members of the LGBTQ community.

After calling reparations too unrealistic and “divisive” to endorse in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and saying that he didn’t believe in the idea of “writing a check” to every African-American during an interview with the radio show “The Breakfast Club” in the current cycle, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) signed on as an original cosponsor of this bill. In a statement, he said

“For centuries, America’s economic rise relied on treating millions of Black people as literal property. We have still not come to terms with the horrors of legalized slavery and its continuing impacts on our society. I am proud to co-sponsor the H.R. 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act to finally bring the truth about slavery into the open.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) both support this legislation. In a February speech at Howard University, Speaker Pelosi said, “Reparations is a challenging issue.” She added that she supports this bill and looks “forward to an open mind and full participation of the public in that discussion.”

Conservatives have ridiculed calls for reparations as unnecessary, unworkable, cynical ploys for black votes. As a party, Republicans are nearly certain to oppose reparations and use the concept to portray Democrats as left-wing socialists seeking a redistribution of the United States’ wealth. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes the idea of reparations. In a June 2019 interview, he said: 

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none us currently living are responsible is a good idea. We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We elected an African American president.”

During the Juneteenth House Judiciary Committee hearing on this legislation, African-American freelance writer Coleman Hughes expressed opposition to reparations for all descendants of slaves. He suggested, instead, that reparations should be paid to those who lived under Jim Crow. Hughes said, “The people who are owed for slavery are no longer here.” Hughes’ testimony was received poorly by the mostly African-American audience. After Hughes finished his testimony, one audience member stood up and left, saying “It's time to go. I can't listen to that. That's garbage.” Former NFL player Burgess Owens, another African-American opponent of reparations, argued that it’s possible to achieve the American dream through hard work at the Judiciary Committee hearing.

At the House hearing on this bill, Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) said in his opening statement that it would be difficult to provide African-Americans financial compensation for the actions of a “small” subset of slave-owning Americans. He also added that reparations would be “unconstitutional on its face.” In separate comments on the day of the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he didn’t know “where it stops” if reparations were to be implemented. He said:

“I just think we are so far removed from the event, it was the original sin of the country. I think let's just make it a more perfect union rather than look backward because I don't know where it stops when you do that. We're not a perfect country but we're trying to form a more perfect union and I don't think this helps."

Antonio Moore, co-founder of American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS), criticized the Juneteeth hearing for being put together on short notice (there were only six days’ advance notice). He called it a haphazardly “thrown together” event “in order to give cover to Democratic presidential candidates who aren’t prepared to deal with the reparations issue.” He also criticized the hearing’s witness list, saying that “[e]conomists, historians, and lawyers are the primary set of experts necessary to frame our reparations claim, not celebrities like Danny Glover.” In an email, Moore wrote, “The bill is far too empty and dated, and needs to be substantially more detailed.” He argued that reparations must address not only slavery, but also redlining and discriminatory housing policies that created the racial wealth gap (which Sen. Booker also discussed in his comments). Moore also argued that the bill should specify that only descendants of enslaved African-Americans should qualify for reparations, that the debt will be in the trillions, and that reparations should take the form of a mix between programs and cash payments to qualified families.

Mary Frances Berry, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of My Face is Black, Is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations, says it’s “high time” for a commission on reparations,” but doesn’t believe that every black person whose ancestors were enslaved should receive a cash payment. Instead, she favors giving reparations to the descendants of those who signed the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Boundary and Pension Association’s petitions seeking pensions from Congress. That organization — which was 300,000-member strong by 1900 — was started by Callie House as an effort to ask people who’d been freed from slavery to sign petitions seeking pensions from Congress. Berry says, “We have a group of people who we can identify, the descendants of those who argued for reparations, who sent stuff to Congress while they were being under surveillance and whose leaders were put in prison.” Separately, Berry has also called for a “reparations superfund” to award organizations to spour African-American entrepreneurship or help people attend college.

This legislation has 16 Senate cosponsors who caucus as Democrats (including Independent Bernie Sanders). Its House version, sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), has 114 Democratic House cosponsors. Neither bill has received a committee vote yet.

In the 115th Congress, former Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced this legislation with 35 Democratic House cosponsors’ support and it didn’t receive a committee vote.

This legislation is supported by the city of Berkeley, California, as well as numerous civil rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN); TransAfrica Forum; United Church of Christ; United Methodist Church General Board of Church; the Detroit Board of Education; and the ACLU.

The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg says this bill has “virtually no chance of Senate passage or President Trump signing it.” This view seemed to be confirmed by a Democratic aide, who called the Juneteenth hearing “an educational opportunity to elevate the dialogue nationally” around reparations. However, House sponsor Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) disagreed, saying, “It’s not a symbolic hearing; it’s not symbolic because of the day; it’s not symbolic because of the commission. It’s legislation that we think has finally reached its moment.”


Of NoteThis proposal was originally introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in 1989 as H.R. 3745. In 1997, Rep. Conyers renamed the bill H.R. 40 in reference to the first (unfulfilled) proposal for reparations to African-Americans by the U.S. government in the form of “40 acres and a mule” to freed slaves after the Civil War. Rep. Conyers introduced this legislation for two decades, from 1989 to 2017, until he retired from Congress. Each time Rep. Conyers introduced this legislation, it would be referred to committee only to not be addressed. 

When Rep. Conyers first introduced this legislation, it was a fringe proposal. However, it’s gained traction in recent years. In 2014, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article “The Case for Reparations” brought the idea of reparations to national prominence by documenting systematic discrimination by the Federal Housing Administeation (FHA), which classified black neighborhoods as undesirable for decades and refused to insure loans for black homeowners. In his essay, Coates argued that the idea of reparations is the important part. He asserted that the United States, as a nation, must seriously consider what it might owe some of its people. 

In an interview, Coates said

“This is about more than slavery; this isn’t about litigating things that happened 150 years ago. There are people who are alive today who are impacted by policies that came out of slavery… If we’re going to be a country that feels like Jefferson is important and Washington is important and the Declaration of Independence is important, and we’re going to be patriotic on July 4, then we have to be the same way about the things that shame us. We can’t say that things that ended 150 years ago don’t matter but somehow the American Revolution does matter. Either the past matters or it doesn’t.”


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / ilbusca)

AKA

H.R. 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act

Official Title

A bill to 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.

    Every last one of you who commented no just showed your true colors. No one had a problem paying the Native Americans. No one had a problem paying the Japanese you interned during WW2. No one had a problem paying the Jews after the same war. But Descendants of Blacks? The same ones you considered property and traded like stock, never. You tell us to forget the past. But want to remember the Alamo, Holocaust and the Civil War. The Left and the Right don’t agree on much. But they do agree not to pay Black Americans despite having full knowledge of the documented atrocities of slavery. Willful ignorance. SMH. And money is not even what we are even asking for. Crazy how you all think is an understatement. Hypocrisy is a better term for it.
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    I’m strongly opposed and Do Not recommend the passage of the bill H.R. 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act which would establish a 13-member Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. It would charge the commission with examining slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the U.S. from 1619 to the present and recommending appropriate remedies.  Reparations are unrealistic, incredibly politically divisive, and difficult to target properly. The basic question of who should be eligible for reparations has so many possible answers, it’s nearly impossible to be sure who should actually be eligible. This close to an election year, this legislation is a cynical attempt to win African-American votes. SneakyPete..... 👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻👎🏻. 8.30.19......
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    Black males were allowed to vote before white females, what reparations will you be making for me?
    Like (60)
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    Stop this clownish nonsense! Nobody owes anyone else anything at all for what happened in the distant past. No one alive today had anything to do with it. It’s long since over with. Let it go. This is trite political pandering. It’s embarrassing.
    Like (55)
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    Reparations... root word “repair”. The purpose of reparations is to repair the damage caused by white supremacy and its negative effects on American Descendants of Chattel Slavery. This study needs to focus its priority on repairing the damages racism has done within the institutions that make up the fabric of American society. Anything else would be passion without direction.
    Like (43)
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    Seriously? Why don’t we create an agency to see why government is so inept?? I’m sure that will fix everything... 😖
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    Reparations have been discussed but, to my knowledge, have never really been fully studied to arrive at any deliberated consensus of what would be equitable. There are a lot of issues that need to be carefully thought out to ensure that reparations are just, practicable and affordable. Between those arguing 'not my problem' and those looking for broad entitlements instead of reparations- many will be unhappy with any formula or solution found. That is why the proposed commission's work will be so important.
    Like (39)
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    This racially-divisive piece of legislation was authored by Democratic Presidential-candidate Cory Booker, to curry favor with African-American voters. Unbelievable. No to the bill.
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    This is just race baiting by the racist democrat party.
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    NO
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    You want to take my hard earned money (taxes) to pay for a wrong that I had absolutely nothing to do with? I want reparations from the Democrat party for all the damage they have done to our country, starting with slavery and the civil war. If they have any money left after that we can discuss the ensuing damages to the tranquility of our nation from Jim Crow laws, Lynch mobs, segregation, and hate mongering. If they have any money left over after that we can go into their involvement with Hollywood in the decades of abuse of women — Hollywood and the Democrats are tied at the hip. Then there is all the damage that they have inflicted on our electoral system, sewing all of these conspiracies about how elections were stolen from them.
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    But don’t just study it do something about it. The government owes African Americans their due. When the slaves were set free they were promised reparations then that they never received so they do deserve to be paid in full
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    First of all, I am so very sorry for the slavery that happened in this country. But we weren’t there when this all went down.
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    Until we participate in a process similar to that of South Africa at the end of apartheid and come together to agree upon and establish a plan to confront the implicit racial bias and racism that underlies our national culture, we will fail to address the forces that will destroy our democratic republic from within. This process must be national in scope, include every corner of this nation and be conducted by a reconciliation committee comprised of members who represent the makeup of We the People fairly and accurately. It is past time to unite US so that we can truly face the difficult and dangerous future together. The word “reparation” derived from the word “repair”. Whatever results from this national reconciliation process, I personally believe that some financial corrections of the consequences experienced by African-American throughout the period of the existence of the United States from 1776 to the present must be made . The job of a reconciliation committee would be to identify these consequences and identify the most effective ways to change existing laws and societal entities to correct the effects of these consequences. Implementing these changes will very likely involve a financial compensation, whether in direct form or in the designation of funds to cover the expenses involved in making needed changes. I stress that this needs to be a process that is open, visible, and includes the involvement of all of the American people 🇺🇸
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    A debt past due.
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    Yes. Slavery has left a huge mark on our history and has repercussions for the African American community and other peoples of color nationwide. We need to develop a fuller understanding of its implications and impacts and how to remedy the harsh negativity of slavery so that future generations don’t have to continue suffering from it for years to come.
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    It'll NEVER happen, nor should it. We were wrong for holding them in slavery.They were wrong for primarily trading themselves(enemies amongst themselves) for guns and ammo to kill their enemies at home. Whether they knew how they'd be treated or not, doesn't matter. A human life is WELL worth more than a gun😉 And they traded their prisoners from other tribes for arms to KILL THE OTHER TRIBES. So, life or slavery, which is better? I can't answer that. But do you think they gave a shit? NOPE THEY DID NOT! Now we're supposed to pay? NOPE WE WILL NOT! Only if the tribe who traded them pays HALF! BOTH ARE WRONG😎✌️ I won't be payin' shit and you can bet on that! NOR will/can any amount of money take the hurt and pain away. But me myself... I don't owe anyone shit! It'll be like a waterfall of different peoples trying to 'get some'. Such as Native Americans, White women or even just women for that fact didn't get to vote til after alot of time went by. Or the Chinese, who we used to get the railroad system laid down, or/and Mexicans who we use as cheap labor even to this day. Slavery as it's known doesn't exist in Amerlica today. I think it's just on a different level is all😉 Put THAT bit of reality in your pipe and smoke that shit. PuffPuffPass💨
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    Absolutely not. If you want to make reparations to anyone, do it to native Americans. Besides, African American males were allowed to vote before female of any color. Do I get ‘reparations?’
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    This already occurred after the civil war. Want to end racial tensions? End divisive accusatory ideas and instead learn to forgive. I’m pretty certain no one alive today owned slaves or was a slave.
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    No because it can’t be determined properly. Despite all that has been done up until now to help better and improve African Americans it hasn’t been enough. There is the constant complaining of being disenfranchised despite cuts to make services, etc., cheaper and other allowances as well. The truth of the matter is there will never be anything that will be enough but the expectation of more. When slavery was ended, despite some who maintained prejudices, African Americans were given the option to go back to Africa and the opportunity to be free and equal with others in the country. Decisions/choices have consequences. African Americans were free to be responsible and make a way for themselves and indeed some have successfully done that. Way too many have chosen to be a victim and think they are less and blame White people. Mind you, there are plenty of White people and other ethnicities who choose to place themselves in that same box and blame others and think they are owed something they don’t work for. To be free is to be responsible for ourselves and work hard for what we have and work hard some more. The Irish were terribly mistreated in this country in the 1800s and early 1900s. They were considered outcasts. To be fair, if African Americans deserve reparations then so do the Irish. Then there were the injustices of the Chinese in this country. There are more and more people and ethnicities who fall into that pot. The government isn’t that rich. If you’re really free start acting like it and stop expecting the government to take care of you!! No to reparations because it will never be enough to make anyone happy or satisfied.
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