Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas recently submitted a bill that is the first step toward giving reparations to Black Americans whose lives have been impacted by the slavery of their ancestors.
Lee recently introduced H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, to the House Floor.
The legislation examines the specific role slavery played in creating inequality in the lives of Black Americans, as well as recommend a formal apology from the U.S. government.
“Today there are more people at the table –– more activists, more scholars, more CEOs, more state and local officials, and more members of Congress,” Lee said in a press release. “However, despite this progress and the election of the first American President of African descent, the legacy of slavery lingers heavily in this nation.
“In short, the Commission aims to study the impact of slavery and continuing discrimination against African Americans, resulting directly and indirectly from slavery to segregation to the desegregation process and the present day. The Commission would also make recommendations concerning any apology and compensation to begin the long-delayed process of atonement for slavery,” she said.
Lee also acknowledged the lack of financial restitution as the main factor in many of the issues the Black community faces today.
“These economic issues are the root cause for many critical issues in the African-American community today, such as education, health care, and criminal justice policy, including policing practices. The call for reparations represents a commitment to entering a constructive dialogue on the role of slavery and racism in shaping present-day conditions in our community and American society.”
Reparations legislation was first introduced in the House by the late Representative John Conyers in 1989. Conyers argued for reparations throughout his final years in Congress before he retired in 2017. Conyers died in 2019.
When he retired, Lee took up the torch to sponsor the bill and step up her campaign after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020.
“I just simply ask, why not and why not now? If not all of us, then who?” she said, per a report by the Detroit News. “God bless us as we pursue the final justice for those who lived in slavery for 250 years in the United States of America.”