Massive crowds waited to get inside the hearing room and emotions inside ran raw as testimony proceeded at a House panel hearing on slavery reparations.
Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and actor/activist Danny Glover were among those who testified on Juneteenth at the first congressional hearing in more than 10 years on reparations by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Coates began his testimony by quoting Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky who told reporters on Tuesday that he opposes reparations: “I don’t want reparations for something that happened 150 years ago.”
Coates reminded the audience that families of Civil War veterans received payments well after the war and that the U.S. honors treaties dating back 200 years. “Many of us would love to be taxed for the things we are solely and individually responsible for,” Coates said, adding that’s not how it works in the U.S.
In testimony directed at McConnell, Coates talked about systemic crimes against Black people in the senator’s lifetime and said that people impacted would “love a word with the majority leader.”
Booker, the first witness to speak, told the committee that the U.S. has not yet grappled with racism and white supremacy. 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,” he said. “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.”
An hour-and-a half into the hearing, “This is what we’re talking about,” Glover said. “Those people who’ve been most disadvantaged historically, we create a better country here.”
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 51: Bärí A. Williams
Part 2. Jamarlin talks to tech attorney and diversity strategist Bärí Williams about the growing gap in big tech regulations between the U.S. and E.U., and why Democrats have been slow in bangin’ against Silicon Valley greed compared to Wall Street greed in 2008. They also discuss reparations and artificial intelligence being weaponized against Black people.
The hearing focused in part on reparations bill H.R. 40, which seeks to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on African Americans alive today.
In the corridor outside the hearing room, Kenniss Henry, a member of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, spoke to Guardian reporter Ed Pilkington. She said she hoped the hearing would help HR 40 finally get a full debate in both the House and Senate – something that has not happened for 30 years.
Watch the hearing here.
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