Members of Congress aim to revive federal reparations push

A group of lawmakers is stepping in to bolster reparation efforts that would benefit descendants of enslaved Africans.

On Wednesday, Reps. Cori Bush, D-Mo., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., stood in front of the Capitol as they unveiled “Reparations Now,” a resolution that urges the federal government to take action to compensate the descendants of slaves.. The measure is meant to bring attention back to H.R. 40, the slow-moving federal bill that has been introduced to Congress each term since 1989 and would create a commission to examine the issue.

Bush said at the press conference the nation has a “moral and legal obligation” to provide reparations to Black people for slavery and its resulting racist systems.

“Black people in our country cannot wait any longer for our government to begin addressing each and every one of the extraordinary bits of harm, all of the harm it has caused since the founding, that it continues to perpetuate each and every day all across our communities, all across this country,” Bush said.

The matter of reparations has been persistently in and out of headlines in recent years, and the 2020 protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor thrust the topic back into the spotlight, prompting states and cities to consider ways to compensate Black people. Supporters of the initiative have pointed to the discrimination and systemic racism that followed slavery as reason to think deeply about compensating Black people. Everything from redlining and segregation to poverty rates have come into play in the national conversation.

“We know that we continue to live under slavery’s vestiges,” Bush continued on Wednesday.

“We know how slavery has perpetuated Jim Crow. We know how slavery’s impacts live on today, from the Black-white wealth gap to voter suppression to segregation and redlining to disparities in infant mortality rates and other health outcomes.”

The resolution comes as California leaders are grappling with reparations at the state level. A first-in-the-nation statewide reparations task force has worked for nearly two years to go through a swatch of proposals and deliver a report on how Black Californians should be compensated. The nine-member task force’s final report, due to lawmakers by July 1, will include a list of recommendations. Lawmakers in the panel have recommended that “any reparations program include the payment of cash or its equivalent” to eligible residents.

In 2021, Evanston, Illinois, became the first city in the country to fund reparations for Black residents, establishing a housing program as the first step in a $10 million reparation plan. Other cities and even religious education institutions have vowed to follow suit by funding various programs and setting up scholarships for Black people.

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