For several years Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has picked up the mantle to lead efforts to create a commission to study reparations for African Americans, and now the Democrat from Texas and others believe they finally have the votes for passage in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“This has been a 30-plus year journey,” Jackson Lee declared. “We had to take a different approach. We had to go one by one to members explaining this does not generate a check.”
Jackson Lee said there’s now enough votes in the House for passage of the historic piece of legislation. If the measure passes and ultimately becomes law, it will create a commission that would hold hearings with testimony from those who support and oppose the idea.
“Reparations is about repair and when you repair the damage that has been done, you do so much to move a society forward. This commission can be a healing process. Telling the truth can heal America,” she said.
If the Senate doesn’t join the House in passing the bill, the congresswoman said she and others would push President Biden to sign an executive order to create the commission.
The White House didn’t immediately respond.
Jackson Lee added that there has never been another time in which she has garnered so much support and momentum for H.R. 40, the reparations legislation that focuses on truth, racial healing and transformation.
Jackson Lee recently reflected on the long-overdue redress to African descendants of slaves. She also praised the resiliency of Black Americans.
“I want to give credit to the giants that were and are Black Americans. They are giants,” Congresswoman Jackson Lee said.
“I want to give credit to the everyday mom and dad who get up every day and get to work and provide for their family. I’m going to give those who came up on the farms or stayed on the farm and raised nine and 10 and 12 children.
“I want to give them the honor that they deserve, and that is to recognize the insurmountable odds that some of them had and how they continue to plant seeds of respect and dignity in their children.
“Has anyone addressed the question of slavery and its comprehensive impact on Black Americans in this country? This is what H.R. 40 will do.”
While the bill doesn’t place a monetary value on reparations, it does focus on truth, racial healing, and transformation.
The bill would fund a commission to study and develop proposals for providing reparations to African Americans.
The commission’s mission includes identifying the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering adverse effects of slavery on living African Americans and society.
Jackson Lee, who sits on numerous House committees (including the Judiciary, Budget, and Homeland Security) has made the reparations legislation her top priority during the 117th Congress.
“I think if people begin to associate this legislation with what happened to the descendants of enslaved Africans as a human rights violation, the sordid past that violated the human rights of all of us who are descendants of enslaved Africans, I think that we can find common ground to pass this legislation,” Jackson Lee said.
“Can anyone imagine that we’ve never gotten a simple, effective, deeply-embedded, and well-respected apology?”
The Congresswoman is further encouraged by the support of the most co-sponsors (166) in the bill’s history, which dates back decades to former Democratic Rep. John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan, who first introduced the legislation in 1969.
In an earlier NNPA interview, White House Senior Advisor to President Biden and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond sounded an urgent tone about the administration’s commitment to ensure racial justice, accessibility, and equity concerning Black America.
Richmond told the Black Press that the administration supports Jackson Lee’s H.R. 40.
“We do support a commission and H.R. 40. We know we can’t wait. We have to start acting now,” Richmond said. “We don’t need a study to tell us that systemic racism is out there. We don’t need a study to tell us that redlining in Black communities has been treated a lot differently.
“We don’t think the Black community should have to wait on a study. We need to deal with systemic racism right now and, yes, we support the commission. But it’s not going to stop us from acting right now.”