A House Judiciary Hearing on slavery reparations for African Americans was held Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C. The likes of writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, actor Danny Glover, 2020 presidential hopeful Senator Cory Booker and former Bennett College President Dr. Julianne Malveaux testified before the House Judiciary subcommittee for a House resolution on reparations.
Sponsored by Texas Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee but first introduced by the former Michigan Rep. John Conyers, H.R. 40 would create a commission aimed at studying and developing reparations for African Americans. This all took place during Juneteenth, a day commemorating the emancipation of enslaved Black people in Texas.
Booker, who has been a long-time advocate for a form of reparations, testified that he believed that America had yet to really “acknowledge” the impact of slavery.
“[America 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,” Booker said. “These disparities don’t just harm black communities, they harm all communities.”
When Coates presented his testimony, he decided to not only address the question of reparations, but also the idea that since it was so long ago that there was no need for any type of restitution for the descendants of enslaved people. Coates directly addressed comments made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday.
“I don’t think that reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea. We 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,” McConnell said.
Coates noted that today’s America would not exist without the work of enslaved Black people and he condemned the senator’s comments with an epic clap back.
“Majority Leader McConnell cited civil-rights legislation yesterday, as well he should, because he was alive to witness the harassment, jailing, and betrayal of those responsible for that legislation by a government sworn to protect them. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion,” Coates said. “Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the majority leader.”
He also mentioned that McConnell was alive when 14-year-old George Stinney was executed and when WWII veteran Isaac Woodard was attacked in the south while in uniform and permanently blinded.
Malveaux reminded white people that even though slavery took place centuries ago, or even if their ancestors did not actively participate in slave trading, they still, directly and indirectly, have benefited from slavery.
Glover also told a moving story about being the grandson of a former enslaved person and urged the importance of “radical change to the structure of our society.”
There were two Republican witnesses, both Black, who believed that reparations are a bad idea. Former NFL player Burgess Owens argued that if Black people worked hard, they could achieve the American dream. He also claimed that the biggest problem for Black people is illegal immigration. The other witness, Coleman Hughes, was booed by the audience when he argued against reparations.
Black Twitter was definitely full of reaction and very divided on the issue of reparations with many finding hope in the hearing while others thought it was a complete waste of time.