As we roll closer to 2020, accusations of racism continue to make headlines and seem poised to become a major talking point in the next election. Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader, announced Tuesday that he was in full support of launching a commission to explore reparations for the descendants of slaves.
“Racism is the poison in America, it’s in the American bones, unfortunately,” he said. “The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is still with us.”
Slavery reparations have been talked up for months with representatives, senators and even presidential candidates pushing the agenda. The bill to discuss reparations is H.R. 40. It was introduced and championed by Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee.
Last month, Congress listened to testimony discussing the idea of providing current citizens with compensation for slavery. Less than a month ago, the House invited Democratic White House candidate Cory Booker to speak on the subject. Actor Danny Glover was also invited.
According to Booker, we as a nation have “yet to truly acknowledge and grapple with the racism and white supremacy that tainted this country’s founding and continues to cause persistent and deep racial disparities and inequality.”
Booker introduced a similar bill into the senate.
“The stain of slavery was not just inked in bloodshed, but in policies that have disadvantaged African Americans for generations,” Booker added.
Actor Danny Glover presentation continued in the same vein.
“Despite much progress over the last centuries, this hearing is yet another important step in the long and heroic struggle of African-Americans to cure the damages inflicted by enslavement, post-emancipation and forced racial exclusionary policies,” he said.
While the debate rages in Congress, polling indicates that the majority of Americans — which includes black Americans with ancestors who were slaves — did not think cash reparations should be paid. The support for reparations is split along racial lines; 80 percent of white Americans were opposed, but 60% of black Americans were in favor of compensation.
House Republicans pointed out the difficulties involved in properly identifying the descendants who should be compensated and in determining the amount they should receive.
“It would be hard to figure out who to compensate. No one currently alive was responsible for that,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
McConnell went on to note that his own family owned slaves in the past, as did Barack Obama’s. Both McConnell and Obama have indicated they do not support the idea of reparations. There is no definite answer of how individuals would be compensated, the amount they would receive, or even a plan for determining how actual descendants could be identified and paid by the program.