Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee To America: Tell The Truth And Pay Reparations

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Written by Ann Brown
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Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee To America: Tell The Truth And Pay Reparations Photo: Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee To America: Tell The Truth And Pay Reparations Photo: Congressional Progressive Caucus members Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. at a news conference, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee, who has represented California’s 13th congressional district since 1998, wants the U.S. to tell the truth about slavery and its legacy. She also wants the country to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves. She’s been pushing the concept of a truth-and-healing hearing for three years.

Democrats introduced legislation earlier this year to create a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Commission. Rep. Barbara Lee has garnered support from many of her colleagues in Congress.

Her proposal includes forming a nonpartisan group of experts to confront the legacy of slavery and racism in the U.S. and propose ways forward. It differs from the H.R. 40 reparations House bill that was re-introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) in that Barbara Lee’s bill will focus on confronting history.

“This is really about telling the truth,” Barbara Lee said.

The bill does not get into specifics about the commission’s makeup, resolving only to form a group “to properly acknowledge, memorialize, and be a catalyst for progress toward jettisoning the belief in a hierarchy of human value, embracing our common humanity, and permanently eliminating persistent racial inequities,” San Francisco Chronicle reported.

South Africa set up a similar commission after the end of apartheid. South African president Nelson Mandela created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995. It was a court-like body established to “help heal the country and bring about a reconciliation of its people by uncovering the truth about human rights violations that had occurred during the period of apartheid,” according to Britannica.com.

Rep. Barbara Lee has been supporting other legislation creating reparations to African Americans for slavery. 

“Tell the truth: We cannot move forward without coming to terms with our past. Let’s pass reparations,” Barbara tweeted over the weekend.

Economist and reparations advocate Prof. Sandy Darity replied with a link to a report of the book he wrote with A. Kirsten Mullen, “Resurrecting the Promise of 40 Acres: The Imperative of Reparations for Black Americans“.

“Perhaps this will provide a useful guide for the #purereparations proposal that should be passed by Congress,” Dr. Darity tweeted.

Others pointed out the need to rewrite H.R. 40.

“Reparations for #ADOS. Let’s not pass anything without appropriate amendments to HR40. Federal repair belongs to ADOS,” #ADOS activist Maxwell Little tweeted.

Another #ADOS advocate tweeted, “Lets but we need a whole new bill though. Or an overhaul of hr40. I prefer starting a new personally. None the less. ‘Lets pass reparations'”.

Rep. Barbara Lee spoke in 2016 of the need for reparations during a lecture at the Penn Department of Africana Studies at Penn Law

“No man or woman can achieve everything in eight years with so many disparities, especially along racial bias, which persists in our nation,” she said. “We’ve got to recognize that our current structure, institutions, and policies, both public and private, they do embody the vestiges of the Middle Passage of slavery and we need to come up with some real solutions based on this clarity as we fight for a more just America, equal protection under the law, and for an end to institutional racism and bigotry.”

Rep. Barbara Lee ended by sharing her confidence that those in the audience would come up with great ideas to help the country provide “liberty and justice for all.”

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The only way to rectify the continued racial discrepancies in the U.S. — from the wealth gap to education — is through reparations on a federal level, Rep. Barabara Lee said during an interview on the “Case in Point” podcast, produced by the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

“Right now what we need is federal” action, she said. “Our communities have lost all our wealth.”

Reparations will help the Black community recover “so we can live the American dream,” she said.

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