A black writer was booed Wednesday for testifying against slave reparations in a congressional hearing.
Quillette columnist Coleman Hughes said reparation payments to the descendants of slaves would insult black Americans, further divide the country, and make him and other descendants of slaves “victims without their consent.”
The public present for the Democrat-led hearing did not take his opinion well, prompting Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen to tell them to “chill.”
“Racism is a bloody stain on this country’s history and I consider our failure to pay reparations directly to freed slaves after the civil war to be one of the greatest injustices ever perpetuated by the U.S. Government,” Hughes said.
He added, however: “Black people don’t need another apology. We need safer neighborhoods and better schools. We need a less punitive criminal justice system. We need affordable health care. And none of these things can be achieved through reparations for slavery.”
Members of the crowd booed at this point.
“If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further, making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today,” Hughes added.
“We would insult black Americans by putting a price on the suffering of their ancestors, and we would turn the relationship between black Americans and white Americans from a coalition into a transaction, from a union between citizens, into a lawsuit between plaintiffs and defendants.” (RELATED: Here’s Where Each 2020 Democratic Candidate Stands On Slavery Reparations)
Hughes pointed out that while he is a descendant of slaves who worked on Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, he was born into a privileged home in the suburbs and attended an Ivy League School. Reparations would give him resources, although he is not struggling financially, and withhold them from other black Americans “with the wrong ancestry” who might be poor.
“I understand that reparations are about what people are owed regardless of how well they are doing,” he said.
I understand that. But people who are owed for slavery are no longer here. And we’re not entitled to collect on their debts. Reparations, by definition, are only given to victims. So the moment you give me reparations, you’ve made me into a victim without my consent. Not just that, you’ve made one-third of black Americans who poll against reparations into victims without their consent.
And black Americans have fought too long for the right to define themselves to be spoken for in such a condescending manner. The question is not what America owes me by virtue of my ancestry, the question is what all Americans owe each other by virtue of being citizens of the same nation.
And the obligation of citizenship is not transactional. It’s not contingent on ancestry. It never expires, and it can’t be paid off. For all these reasons, bill HR 40 is a moral and political mistake. Thank you.
Hughes was booed again as he concluded his testimony, causing Cohen to bang his gavel and hush the crowd. “Chill, chill, chill, chill,” he said. “He was presumptive, but he still has a right to speak.”
The bill at issue was introduced by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, and would commission a study on reparations payments. Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who is running for president, introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
A number of Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, have endorsed the bills. Former Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke has also pledged his support.
Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have panned the bills, indicating they’re unlikely to gain any real traction.