The Jury Talks Back


House Judiciary Democrats Hold Hearing On Reparations

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 10:31 am

[guest post by Dana]

Today is Juneteenth, a day that is set aside to celebrate the official end of chattel slavery in the United States, and it is also the day chosen to hold a House Committee hearing on slavery reparations, including setting up a commission to determine what reparations would entail with regard to the descendants of slaves. Today’s proposal, H.R.40 is being sponsored by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is backing the bill. Sen. Cory Booker, actor Danny Gover, and author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is seen as having brought the issue of reparations back into the public conversation, are scheduled to testify in support of Lee’s measure.

Supporters of “reparatory justice” want people to know that they view this as more than just the government sending a check to black Americans:

Advocates emphasize that reparations would address more recent policies, and do not necessarily mean the government would be writing checks to black people… government could engage in…zero-interest loans for black prospective homeowners, free college tuition, community development plans to spur the growth of black-owned businesses in black neighborhoods — to address the social and economic fallout of slavery and racially discriminatory federal policies that have resulted in a huge wealth gap between whites and blacks in America. It would be up to the commission to explore such options and others.

From Cory Booker:

Booker…told the committee that America has not yet grappled with racism and white supremacy and that the hearing presents a “historic opportunity to break the silence, to speak to the ugly past and talking constructively about how we will move this nation forward.”

“It’s about time we find the common ground and the common purpose to deal with the ugly past and make sure that generations ahead do not have to continue to mark disparities,” Booker said on Wednesday.

Booker had previously told CNN’s Jake Tapper:

“Do I support legislation that is race-conscious about balancing the economic scales? Not only do I support it, but I have legislation that actually does it.”

Booker has authored his own companion bill:

It’s the only reparations bill to be introduced in the Senate after Reconstruction. Like Jackson-Lee’s bill, the senator’s bill would establish a commission to examine the impacts of slavery in the U.S. — from its inception until the end of the Civil War in 1865 — and recommend ways to compensate the descendants of slaves.

Co-sponsors of Booker’s bill include Democratic presidential candidates Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar. A spokesperson for Joe Biden commented that the candidate “believes that we should gather the data necessary to have an informed conversation about reparations, but he has not endorsed a specific bill.”

Recent polling about reparations puts hopeful Democratic candidates in an interesting position, especially the top-tier Democrats who are embracing the issue:

A Fox News poll in April found that 60 percent of Americans oppose paying cash reparations to descendants of slaves, while just 32 percent support it. A Rasmussen poll in the same month found that just 21 percent of likely voters think taxpayers should pay reparations to black Americans who can prove they are descended from slaves.

However, in a finding that could put 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls in a bind, the Fox poll found that among Democratic primary voters, 54 percent said they were likely to support a candidate who backed reparations, while 33 percent said they were not likely.

Additionally, Data For Progress found in a poll last year that while the measure had only 26 percent of Americans in favor, it had net positive support among voters under 45. A Point-Taken Marist poll in 2016 found that while 68 percent of Americans were opposed to reparations, 6 in 10 black Americans said they were in favor.


A recent government survey found that 52 percent of Americans — including growing percentages of whites, blacks, independents, Democrats and Republicans — believe the government does not spend enough money on improving the conditions of African-Americans, according to The Associated Press. But the survey found that just three in 10 Americans think the government is obligated to make up for past racial discrimination.

Postscript 1: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked his thoughts about reparations, and his comments made very clear his position on whether any reparations bill would be given a hearing:

I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none us currently living are responsible is a good idea. 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. We’ve had waves of immigrants come to the country and experience dramatic discrimination of one kind or another. So no, I don’t think reparations are a good idea.

Postscript 2: Unbelievably, (and ironically or expectedly, depending on your level of cynicism), only Elizabeth Warren has said specifically that American Indians should be part of any conversation about reparations.



  1. I wholeheartedly agree with reparations! I think that every single person who was alive and in slavery in the USA when the last confederate general surrendered should be paid, and paid quite a bit. Every single one of them.

    Not descendants, of course. Just the people who were actual slaves.

    The last confederate general, Stand Watie, Grand Chief of the Cherokees, surrendered on June 23rd, 1865. This was of course later than the commonly-thought “Juneteenth”. And BTW, it had real effects on slaves, because the Cherokee were major slaveholders.

    Oh, and for added historical fun, the black slaves of the Cherokees became Cherokee citizens, like black slaves of southern states became citizens of the states in which they resided. Until, that is, the Cherokee held a referendum and stripped the blacks of their citizenship. They did this in 2007.

    So, I’m all for slavery reparations (for every person who was a slave in the US on or before June 23rd, 1865, and is alive today). I’m also all for including the Indians in this conversation, because if one actually looks at the history, it';s not what many people think it is. (Hint; slavery was common in North America before the first European arrived, and the Indian role in the Civil War is fascinating).

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 6/19/2019 @ 8:14 pm

  2. Your comments are always a nice combination of interesting facts and wit, Arizona CJ. IIRC, Watie became a General in the war, yes?

    Comment by Dana — 6/19/2019 @ 9:20 pm

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