For The First Time In Years, Democratic House Members Are Seriously Discussing Reparations

Written by Ann Brown
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., arrives for the House Democrats leadership elections where he expect to become the House majority whip, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Over the years the issue of slave reparations has popped up over and over but not much action has been done. But now the debate has really heated up among the Democrats in the House.

“Sparked in part by the support of several presidential contenders, the topic has been discussed multiple times by top House Democrats, including at their retreat in the exurbs of Virginia earlier this month,” Politico reported.

And it seems the discussion is divided not by race or even by party affiliation but by generation. In the Congressional Black Caucus, some of the younger African-American lawmakers want to push the reparations conversation into the public, but older members don’t want to alienate moderate voters.

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“I’m glad that we’re having this discussion and I’m glad that it seems to be an adult discussion for a change,” said House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is the highest-ranking African-American in Congress. “We’re just getting people to understand that reparations, by definition, means ‘to amend.’ Now the question is how do we make amends?”

Even though the conversation might alienate some voters, but not discussing reparations could “turn off voters of color who think it’s an important conversation to have, especially with President Donald Trump in the White House and white nationalism on the rise,” Politico reported.

“As this administration has seemed to be forcing certain issues, I think that everybody wants to have an honest discussion about everybody who is in this country,” Clyburn said.

The 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates have been discussing it, especially Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and even former HUD Secretary Julián Castro.

Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has gone as far as introducing a companion bill to legislation sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) to create a commission to study the idea of reparations.

Back in 1989 there was similar legislation introduced in 1989 by former Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), but that got much support.

Jackson Lee’s bill has nearly 50 co-sponsors. And according to Jackson Lee, she plans to send a “Dear colleague” letter soon to solicit more support within the caucus.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has publicly supported for the bill. Add Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to the growing list of supports. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who now represents’ Conyers Detroit-area district, too is a supporter of Jackson Lee’s bill.

“Her bill is exactly the starting point that we need to have a full-blown conversation about reparations,” Tlaib said.

“We want to be responsive to all Americans and we know how diverse this country has become,” Jackson Lee said. “We have consistently, as Democrats, wanted to say to the American people that we are for the people.”