Black Democrats are pushing for a vote on a reparations bill in the next two weeks that would launch a study into whether the country owes Black Americans restitution for slavery, The Hill reports.
Citing the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa, Okla., race massacre as the impetus, lawmakers want a commission created on the issue amid the stark racial disparities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. President Joe Biden’s White House has already given its support to a study.
Many congressional Black Caucus members in late May visited the site of the 1921 massacre, where Tulsa's prosperous African-American community in the district of Greenwood that had the nickname "Black Wall Street" was targeted.
After a Black man was accused of assaulting a white woman, an allegation that was never proven, white rioters gunned down Blacks, looted homes, and set fire to buildings block by block. More than 1,000 buildings were destroyed.
About 300 people were killed and thousands left homeless.
“Tulsa is ground zero, I believe, in terms of raising the level of awareness, and the whys, and the importance of reparations and getting H.R. 40 passed,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said. “We’re pushing hard. I don’t know of a date yet, but ... I’m encouraging and urging and we’re hoping that this is seen as a priority and will be brought to the floor.”
The first version of the reparations bill was introduced more than 30 years ago but never advanced, according to AFP. It addresses the period of slavery and discrimination in the United States from 1619 to the present day, and would establish a commission that would study and propose remedies including financial reparations.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, the bill's chief sponsor, said in April a reparations commission would be a long-overdue effort to confront the stark societal disparities occurring in Black communities today, and recommend solutions.
It would provide a "road map for the truth of the brutality and the onerous and terrible burden placed on African Americans, and this nation, by slavery.”
The House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation in April, setting the stage for a vote on the House floor, The Hill pointed out.
“For those of us who went to Tulsa, it became even more apparent to us how important it is to pass H.R. 40 and to do so certainly before we leave for the August recess,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.
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