Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is calling on federal lawmakers to put some reparations action behind their “thoughts and prayers” after 10 people were shot dead and three wounded on May 14 by a white supremacist in a racist terror attack that targeted the Black community of Buffalo, New York.
Jackson Lee said if her colleagues really wanted to take a stand against racism, they’d pass H.R. 40 – the House bill that has been languishing in Congress for more than 30 years. The bill seeks to establish a commission to study slavery and discrimination against Black Americans who were enslaved and their descendants and develop reparations proposals.
“The courageous act of taking action on H.R. 40 in the midst of this mass murder of African Americans in Buffalo will show the nation is standing up to racists and racism,” Jackson Lee tweeted on Monday, May 16, two days after the gunman’s hate-filled rampage at Tops Supermarket.
Jackson Lee wasn’t the only one calling for reparations after 18-year-old Peyton Gendron drove hours from his home in Conklin, New York to live-stream on Twitch what authorities called his long and well-planned massacre.
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Community activist and nurse India Walton, who ran for mayor of Buffalo, echoed Jackson Lee’s call for action. The city’s history of systemic racism and segregation led to “food apartheid” and Buffalo’s Black community has just one grocery store – the one targeted by the shooter, Walton said. That one store is now closed.
“We are at yet another moment of national reckoning, right? This is not an isolated incident. This is more than half a century of oppression, of systemic racism. And now is the time to renew the call for reparations,” Walton said in a Democracy Now interview. “I think we need bold, reparative action on the forefront of all of these conversations. Prayers and thoughts are not enough.”
Walton added that the Black community has been preyed on, extracted from and victimized by “homegrown terrorists” in America for generations, and healing cannot take place without taking action.
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“Our existence in this country comes from a place of terror,” Walton added. “And if we’re not having conversations about reparations, if we’re not having conversations about actively undoing the harm that has been caused by redlining, by intentionally leaving Black people out of economic and social upward mobility, then it’s a nonstarter for people like me who do this work, who care for our communities.”
The massacre and comments from Jackson Lee and Walton come just weeks after dozens of civil rights and religious groups wrote a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to use his executive authority to create the federal reparations commission by Juneteenth (June 19).
“Juneteenth presents you with an important opportunity to commemorate the end of enslavement while also recognizing much more still needs to be done to create equity and real opportunity for African Americans in the US beyond declaring a national holiday,” read the letter, published March 4 by Human Rights Watch.
“The Black to white racial wealth gap remains vast … a vestige of the legacy of enslavement—which can find its roots in redlining, the Homestead Act, and denying Black people access to federally backed home mortgages—and the failure to address the exploitation, segregation, and violence unleashed on Black people that followed,” the letter continued. “Moreover, the ongoing impacts of enslavement have resulted in deep psychological harms, including by way of forced separation and collective trauma, which require comprehensive remedy.”
People weighed in on social media.
“That is the absolute least you can do! H.R. 40 is flawed but it’s a start,” Deborah tweeted. “We’re watching our so called Black politicians carefully. We’re done with your sorry empty promises. We want tangibles!”
“Yeah watch those white supremacists see how much courage we’re showing by promoting a STUDY bill that’s been out 30+ years. Let’s throw the books at the assault rifles” tweeted Brother Matthew.
PHOTO: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, a member of the House of Representatives since 1995, speaks to reporters about the growing lack of civility, especially by some Republicans in Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. The most recent instance came after a video of first-term Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., calling Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a Muslim, a member of the “jihad squad” and likening her to a bomb-carrying terrorist. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)