Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Cory Booker said the idea that reparations are just “about writing a check from one American to another” is “wrong” during a Wednesday hearing.
The House of Representatives held a hearing on a bill introduced by Democratic Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee supporting the “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act,” which argues in support of a commission to study reparations for the descendants of African-American slaves in the U.S.
“We, as a nation, have not yet truly acknowledged and grappled with racism and white supremacy that has tainted this country’s founding and continues … today. This is a very important hearing. It is historic. It is urgent,” Booker, who introduced the Senate version of the bill, began. (RELATED: Mitch McConnell Pans Democratic Talk Of Slave Reparations)
Booker told the story of his own inner-city New Jersey community he said was “designed” to be segregated and how the injustices he experienced in his own state compare to the rest of the country. He said the “bedrock policies” of the United States “were designed to exclude African-Americans.”
“The characterizations of such an effort that I hear from others is wrong and undermines our collective purpose and common ground,” he continued. “This idea that it’s just about writing a check from one American to another falls far short of the importance of this conversation and what I believe we will truly talk about. I say that I am broken-hearted and angry right now.”
“Hope is the active conviction that despair will not have the last word,” he said. “I believe right now — today — we have a historic opportunity to break the silence … It’s about time we find the common ground and the common purpose to deal with the ugly past and make sure that generations ahead do not have to continue to mark disparities, but can truly talk about a nation, whereas our ancestors spoke from the good book, where justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a might stream.”
Jackson Lee gave background information on the slave trade in her opening remarks.
She said after the Civil War and Reconstruction, there was “a reign of terror that had never been seen — the hanging, the lynching, the oppression of voting, the tearing away of land and the amazing concept of the continuing impact of slavery today. One million African-Americans are incarcerated. That is a continuing impact.”
Reparations have been a popular topic of debate throughout the 2020 presidency news cycle in 2019, especially after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his opinion about reparations. (RELATED: Here’s Where Each 2020 Democratic Candidate Stands On Slavery Reparations)
“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” McConnell said. “We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We elected an African-American president.”
2020 candidate Bernie Sanders, a co-sponsor of Booker’s bill, voiced his support for the study of reparations earlier in June on Twitter.
“America’s economic rise relied on treating Black people as literal property,” he said. “We have not come to terms with the horrors of slavery and its continued impacts on our society. I am proud to cosponsor this bill to study and develop reparations proposals.”
Fellow candidate Elizabeth Warren also voiced her support of the bill on Twitter in March.
“Slavery is a stain on America [and] we need to address it head on. I believe it’s time to start a national, full-blown conversation about reparations. I support the bill in the House to support a congressional panel of experts so that our nation can do what’s right & begin to heal,” she wrote.
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