Feb 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

House panel to hold another hearing on reparations

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee listens during a hearing about reparations for the descendants of enslaved people for a House Judiciary subcommittee in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has reintroduced a bill to fund a commission to study reparations to African Americans. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A U.S. House subcommittee will host another hearing on a proposal to study compensation for America's history of slavery and racial discrimination.

Why it matters: The hearing scheduled Feb. 17 is part of a second attempt by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, to get a commission funded that would examine how reparations for African Americans would work and how descendants of enslaved people would be compensated for decades of trauma.

  • The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, held a similar hearing on Juneteenth in 2019, attracting Black intellectuals and celebrities.
  • It was the first congressional hearing on reparations in more than a decade and came amid growing conversations about racial disparities in the U.S.

Details: H.R. 40 seeks to establish a commission to "examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies."

  • Since introduced three years ago, the bill has gained support from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.
  • Some Democratic presidential candidates in the 2020 election also went on the record to say they supported the proposal.

National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America co-chair Kamm Howard said there is more momentum this time to establish the commission and finally debate the need for reparations.

Yes, but: Democrats hold a slim majority in the U.S. Senate and it's not clear that even some moderate Democrats would endorse the creation of a reparations commission.

Flashback: "A national reparations policy is a moral, democratic and economic imperative. This hearing is yet another important step in the long and historic struggle of African Americans to secure reparations for the damage that has been inflicted by slavery and Jim Crow," actor and activist Danny Glover said during the 2019 hearing.

Between the lines: The public airing of the reparations debate comes after a summer of racial reckoning following high-profile killings of African Americans by police.

  • City governments, professional sports leagues, and media outlets also have since reexamined their roles in elevating systemic racism.
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