Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee hasn’t been heard from much on the topic of reparations in the months since she reintroduced the HR 40 reparations bill on Jan. 3, 2019.
On Tuesday, she came out of “hiding” for a conversation on just that. Civil rights advocacy group Color of Change hosted an Instagram Live chat at 4 p.m. ET with Rep. Jackson Lee and Color of Change President Rashad Robinson.
Many have been waiting for Jackson Lee to speak more about the reparations bill, also known as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.
The bill was first introduced by the late Rep. John Conyers, Jr. in 1989. He continued to push for the bill until he retired in 2017.
Jackson Lee pressed Congress to pass the reparations bill in August 2020 during the anniversary of the historic 1963 march on Washington, D.C.
“We will not stop until the nation knows Black Lives Matter, and reparations are passed as the most significant civil rights legislation of the 21st century,” Jackson Lee said.
In particular, ADOS, has been calling for edits to the bill. Until recently, Jackson Lee has been accused of being unresponsive — at least to ADOS.
Then Ice Cube tweeted on Oct. 16, “HR40 needs to be fixed before its signed. It’s lacking real teeth. @JacksonLeeTX18 I’ve been trying to contact you for over a week. #FixHR40”
Jackson Lee tweeted back, “I am always available and as you know, I am always fighting for social justice. Let’s have a conversation. @icecube https://twitter.com/icecube/status”
Members of ADOS complained on Twitter that Rep. Jackson Lee has not been as responsive to them.
“Really? Always? How come you don’t respond to your constituents?” TheStoryPrincess @paynecth questioned Jackson Lee on Twitter. “I have seen @AdosHouston repeatedly request a response from you and nothing. You have been embarrassed publicly by someone with a platform and now you respond. Ms Jackson you aren’t fooling anyone.”
“Exactly..Is there a particular reason @JacksonLeeTX18 u aren’t responding to your constituents? @AdosHouston been waiting for weeks for that call back..What’s the play? Is there a reason you haven’t made those edits yet?” another Twitter user asked.
Dr. Sandy Darity, a reparations activist and ADOS supporter noted Jackson Lee’s lack of response to ADOS requests. He tweeted, “My last communication with Rep SJL’s office. Never heard a peep out of them afterward.” Darity posted a screenshot of an email to Jackson Lee’s office trying to confirm a meeting, which he said went unanswered.
Jamarlin Martin, The Moguldom Nation founder, said,”My suspicion is Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is being handled by the leaders of the DNC and they are slow playing HR40 based on election considerations. At a minimum, I think it’s bad optics for her to not respond to Dr. Sandy Darity and passionate ADOS voters about edits to the bill over several months and then respond to Ice Cube on Twitter.”
The Black American DOS Caucus sent Jackson Lee a letter composed by Darity and fellow reparations activist A. Kirsten Mullen. In the letter, Darity and Mullen laid out the changes members of ADOS want to see in HR40. These include:
1. Commissioners should be selected exclusively by Congress. They should be experts in American history, Constitutional law, economics (including stratification economics), political science, and sociology, and they should have expertise on the history of slavery and the Jim Crow regime, employment discrimination, wealth inequality, health disparities, unequal education opportunity, criminal justice and mass incarceration, media, political participation and exclusion, and housing inequities.
2. The Commission should be charged with developing a proposal for redress that will eliminate the gulf in black and white wealth in the United States. While Black Americans constitute 13 percent of the nation’s population, they possess less that 3 percent of the nation’s wealth. A reparations plan should be designed to bring the Black share of wealth, at least, into alignment with the black share of the population.
3. The Commission should be directed to set as eligible recipients Black American descendants of United States slavery. Eligible recipients would need to show that they have at least one ancestor who was enslaved in the United States — a lineage standard, and, for at least 12 years prior to the enactment of a reparations plan or a study commission, whichever comes first, they self-identified as Black, negro, or African American—an identity standard.
4. The relevant window for the Black American claim for reparations dates from 1776 to the present (not 1619 as the bill currently reads). Since the claim for redress must be made by the U.S. government, the beginning date for the claim should be associated with the founding of the Republic, not the landing of enslaved persons at Jamestown, Virginia.
5. The Commission should be directed to complete its report, inclusive of a detailed prescription for legislation to enact a reparations program for Black Americans, within 18 months of its impaneling.
6. There should be a paid professional staff. While the Commissioners’ reasonable expenses should be met, unlike the present version of the bill, neither they nor any organization to which they belong should receive a salary, honorarium, or the equivalent for performing this vital national service.
The Black American DOS Caucus was founded as a collective of “galvanized ADOS individuals.” Its affiliation with the ADOS movement is one of education and support, according to its website.
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With all this in mind, Jackson Lee could be facing a tough crowd Tuesday.
“I have a feeling some folks are going to pull up on this and ask some tough questions about edits,” Martin tweeted.