April 23, 2024

Lawmakers debate reparations for slavery: ‘We elected an African-American president’

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 19: Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates testifies during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on reparations for slavery on June 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

The heated debate over reparations came to a head this week as lawmakers listened to passionate testimonies both for and against the idea of allotting compensation to African Americans whose ancestors were adversely affected by generations of slavery and racial discrimination.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to be one of the people who believe that due to Barack Obama being elected president, we’re living in a post-racial society. But he took it further by suggesting that as a reason reparations for slavery are not needed.

According to The Hill, Tuesday, during a weekly press conference, McConnell made it clear that he does not support reparations for descendants of slaves, an issue that this week, the House Judiciary Committee will hold it’s first hearing on in a decade.

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“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” McConnell said. “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.”

“I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that, and I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it. First of all, it would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate. … No, I don’t think reparations are a good idea,” McConnell continued.

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Wednesday, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is held the hearing, “to examine, through open and constructive discourse, the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice.”

“It’s impossible to imagine America without the inheritance of slavery,” writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author of a widely read 2014 essay making the case for reparations, told the House Judiciary panel.

“For a century after the Civil War, black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror,” Coates added. “Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the majority leader.”

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Reparations has become a topic of debate in the Democratic presidential primary, with several 2020 candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), vowing that they would sign a bill forming a reparation study commission into law if they become president.

However, in the GOP-controlled Senate the chances of the legislation moving seems unlikely.

“I think it’s too remote in time. I think it’s too divisive,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told the press earlier this year.

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