HR 40 is a congressional bill brought forward by Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee that would create a commission to study and examine reparations proposals. A hearing on HR 40 was held in June 2019, with both Dr. Julianne Malveaux and Coleman Hughes testifying for and against the passage of this legislation. This Atlantic article
provides an examination of previous attempts to secure reparations.
There is a no consensus over how much money would be due to the descendants of slaves if a reparations law was indeed passed. One financial writer estimates
it would cost $16 trillion, based on treasury bond interest rates to the money over decades since slavery ended. That’s around $1 million per African-American household.
Julianne talks about the promise of reparations in 1865. Freed slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule as a way to provide compensation for years of unpaid labour. Here
is some background on this proposal and what became of it.
Both debaters talk about the racial wealth gap that exists in America. Data from the US Census Bureau reveals
that black wealth is about 7% that of whites. The gap is worsening. Between 1983 and 2013, white households saw their wealth increase by 14%. But during the same period, black household wealth declined by 75%.
Coleman talks about failures in the criminal just system, particularly the mass incarceration of black Americans. African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. One out of every three black boys born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino boys—compared to one of every 17 white boys. Read more about the racial disparities in prisons and criminal sentencing here
Other persecuted groups have received reparations in the past: In 1988, US president Ronald Reagan formally apologized for the US government’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and paid $20,000 in reparations to over 800,000 victims
of internment. Germany has also paid over $89 billion in reparations to victims of the Holocaust during World War II.
Coleman refers to President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty
”, which centered around four pieces of legislation: food stamps, social security amendments, the VISTA program, and the Education Act. Data shows that Johnson’s efforts worked: poverty is down from 1967 to 2012, from 26 percent to 16 percent.
Georgetown University students recently voted
to increase student fees in order to raise $400,000 a year to benefit the descendants of the 272 enslaved people who were sold
to help keep the college afloat nearly two centuries ago
Last year, the city of Chicago passed
legislation providing reparations to victims of racially motivated police torture committed from 1972 to 1991.