Hakeem Jeffries Vs Pelosi For House Speaker: Where Does Jeffries Stand On Reparations For Black America?

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Written by Ann Brown
House Speaker
Hakeem Jeffries Vs Pelosi For House Speaker: Where Does Jeffries Stand On Reparations For Black America?/Photo: Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of N.Y., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, June 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)/Photo: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters about Election Day results at DNC headquarters in Washington, Nov. 3, 2020. (Erin Scott/Pool via AP)

Reparations are still a hot-button issue and many people want to know where high-ranking politicians stand — especially when that politician is the Speaker of the House, leader of the majority party and highest-ranking legislative official in government.

The Speaker of The House is elected by the whole of the House of Representatives and acts as leader of the House.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has served Congress since 1987 and has led the House Democrats since 2003. The first woman to lead a party in Congress, she served twice each as House minority leader (2003 to 2007 and 2011 to 2019) and as Speaker (2007 to 2011 and 2019 to the present).

Now the 80-year-old Pelosi may have a challenger for the job — Rep. Hakeem Sekou Jeffries, who has served in New York’s 8th congressional district since 2013. 

Jeffries is often floated as a potential successor to Pelosi, which would make him the first Black speaker. Pelosi once said that the upcoming Congress would be her final term as speaker, but she has declined to answer questions about her future in recent weeks, Politico reported.

It has been reported Jeffries isn’t looking to take her spot, though other Democrats would like to see him in the role.

“He’s the only one prepared and positioned,” a centrist Democratic lawmaker told The Grio. “He bridges moderates and progressives better than anyone. And most importantly, he’s not Nancy Pelosi.”

Brooklyn-bred Jeffries was elected to his position in November 2018. He is a graduate of New York University and the fifth highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. 

If Jeffries, 50, does become speaker, where does he stand on reparations? Pelosi has said she wants to explore the issue of reparations.

“Reparations is a challenging issue,” Pelosi said at a 2019 event at Howard University, adding that she backed Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s H.R.40 proposed legislation to set up a reparations study commission. “I support that and look forward to an open mind and full participation of the public in that discussion.”

There seems to be no love lost between Pelosi and Jeffries. A Twitter user recently posted a quote from Jeffries that seemed directed at Pelosi. He said, “Do we want to win, do we want to govern, or do we want to be internet celebrities?” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).” The user commented, “honestly offensive.”

Jeffries, who is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, has spoken about reparations as a way to help deal with systemic racism.

“Whenever America has made meaningful progress, on the question of racial social justice in particular, it’s almost always been followed by an immediate backlash, and it seems to me we’re in a backlash moment right now,” Jeffries said at a recent Brookings event on addressing structural racism in U.S. public policy institutions.  

According to Rep. Jeffries, the U.S. has to come to terms with history in order for reparations to be accepted as right and necessary by lawmakers and citizens. 

“African Americans were largely carved out of the New Deal. So, you had the Depression and a response to it, but a response to it that only applied to some Americans, not all Americans in certain instances,” Jeffries said.

African Americans were also in “large part” left out of the G.I. Bill. Both measures were meant to help build “the greatest middle class in history.” Being excluded hindered Black Americans’ ability to grow wealth.

On the matter of the H.R. 40 bill, Jeffries said, “You had this long journey that I think is part of the historical record. Nobody can factually dispute it. And then the question is, what does it all mean for the conditions that many communities still find themselves in right now? I think that’s part of the concept of H.R. 40.”

Calls for reparations have increased since the May 25 death of George Floyd.

“House Democrats have already approved several proposals designed to tackle racial disparities and social injustice across different facets of American society, including legislation to overhaul the criminal justice system and expand access to health care,” The Hill reported.

Jeffries, a supporter of Rep. Jackson Lee’s bill, suggested committee leaders are waiting for the Congressional Black Caucus to make recommendations before moving on any new legislation responding to Floyd’s death.

“It is my expectation that we won’t see Chairman Nadler or the Judiciary Committee move on anything within his jurisdiction until the Congressional Black Caucus has weighed in about what our moving-forward agenda will be in the context of systemic racism in America,” Jeffries told reporters in June.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.

Reparations still have major hurdles. “The failure to really adjust to the idea that some group of people who had been the objects of property can now become subjects…that’s a really hard adjustment for some folks,” said Robert Westley, a law professor at Tulane University. Westley spoke during a panel discussion on reparations at NYU School of Law in February entitled “The Past, Present, and Future of Reparations.”

The definition of reparations must be clear, Westley added. He defines reparations as “including what may be done to mitigate the injury to a discrete and identifiable group of people caused by the law or absence of law. Given that definition welfare to the poor is not reparations … Reparations really is mitigation of damage.”

Ann Brown
Image Attribution: Hakeem Jeffries Vs Pelosi For House Speaker: Where Does Jeffries Stand On Reparations For Black America?/Photo: Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of N.Y., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)/Photo: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters about Election Day results in races for the House of Representatives, at Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, Nov. 3, 2020. (Erin Scott/Pool via AP), Hakeem Jeffries Vs Pelosi For House Speaker: Where Does Jeffries Stand On Reparations For Black America?/Photo: Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of N.Y., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)/Photo: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters about Election Day results in races for the House of Representatives, at Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, Nov. 3, 2020. (Erin Scott/Pool via AP)