[Reparation Bill\(HR) 40]
ACLU: “HR 40 would establish a commission to investigate the legacy of slavery and its ongoing harms as well as come up with proposals to Congress for redress and repair.”
Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joined 190 civil rights organizations, including the National African American Reparations Commission and Human Rights Watch to send a letter to Congress urging House and Committee leadership to urge House and Committee leadership to bring House Resolution (HR) 40 to an immediate vote in light of protests spurred by a national reckoning on structural racism and police violence.
Jeffery Robinson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality, highlighted the urgency behind the need for a vote in the following statement:
“Millions of people — across racial generational and economic strata — are taking to the streets to protest the structured and intentional system of racism that serves as a foundation to this country. We must ask ourselves, why are we living in this moment of crisis 99 years after the Tulsa Massacre, 52 years after the King assassination, and 29 years after Rodney King?
We are here because rather than our government institutions taking the steps necessary to atone for the legacy of slavery, they have further entrenched that legacy by codifying redlining, The War on Drugs, voter suppression, and other racist laws. H.R. 40 is the vehicle through which the same institutions that have failed to right the wrongs of our nation’s past can begin the process of repair. Until that happens, the American people will never be whole.
America has existed longer with slavery (1619-1865: 246 years) than without it (1865-2019: 155 years). The first 100 of the 155 years without slavery were characterized by socially mandated and legally enforced white supremacy. Congress has had the opportunity for serious consideration of the issue of Reparations for years. H.R. 40 is simply a first and reasonable step—it is a commitment to truth-telling, studying, and coming up with ideas to treat the disease, rather than a commitment to the treatment itself.
The bill has been introduced for 30 years—yet for 30 years, it has languished in Congress.
In cities across the country, Americans are saying that we can not recover the lives lost to systemic anti-blackness and heinous racial terror. They are acknowledging that we can’t undo the trauma that has wreaked havoc on Black communities and bodies.
Congressional leadership committing to bring H.R. 40 would be an acknowledgment that our leaders hear those voices and are committed to moving the United States out of this deep well of white supremacy that has been it’s hallmark for 400 years.”
The ACLU delivered the following letter to Congress in support of Reparations bill H.R. 40:
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s seminal text, “Why We Can’t Wait,” was written in 1963 and has emerged as more prescient than ever in this moment. The multi-racial, cross-generationalprotests across the United States have ushered in a national reckoning on structural racism—and a sea change in attitudes. A majority of people in the US support the protests and believe that racism is a serious issue in this country. We, the undersigned organizations, believe addressing it can no longer wait.
People in the US are now more eager than ever to pull back the curtain on institutions to see whether they have helped to advance or stall racial progress, and the US Congress is no exception. One bill in particular can demonstrate support for meeting this moment in a reasonable, rational, and compassionate way: House Resolution (HR) 40. We urge House and Committee leadership to bring this bill to a full vote once it reaches the floor.
The current social movement, the largest in US history, is in response to problems that are centuries in the making—issues intractably tied to the horrors of settler colonialism and the enslavement of Black people in the United States. People in the US are increasingly aware that there is no way forward from the current strife without addressing one of the nation’s most egregious violations of human rights—the institution of slavery. HR 40 would establish a commission to investigate the legacy of slavery and its ongoing harms as well as come up with proposals to Congress for redress and repair.
HR 40 is simply a first and reasonable step—it is a commitment to truth-telling, studying and coming up with ideas to treat the disease, rather than a commitment to the treatment itself. The bill has been introduced for 30 years—yet for 30 years, it has languished. If the protests have demonstrated anything, it is that action cannot wait.
•HR 40 can’t wait, when Covid-19 is harming Black people in the US at three times the rate of white people, with disparities across all age groups and areas of the country.
•HR 40 can’t wait, when Black infants are more than twice as likely to die as white infants—making the disparity worse than it was in 1850, when Black people were enslaved.
•HR 40 can’t wait, when heads of white households who only have a high school diploma are sitting on almost 10 times more wealth than Black households with the same level of 2 education. If Black families did “everything right,” the advanced degrees would still allow them to accumulate less wealth than a white family whose head of household only had a high school diploma. They’d be disproportionately denied mortgages and fair lending rates regardless of their incomes.
•HR 40 can’t wait, when the gap between Black and white wealth is as large as it was in 1968.
•HR 40 can’t wait, when school districts that serve higher populations of Black and brown students receive $23 billion less in funding compared to mostly white school districts, even though they serve the same number of children.
•HR 40 can’t wait, when Black students are disproportionately punished and criminalized in their schools, beginning in preschool, facing greater rates of suspension, expulsion, and arrest compared to their white peers, often for the same behaviors.
•HR 40 can’t wait, when experts say that systemic racism is leaving Black people with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, harm to their immune systems, premature aging, and in Washington, DC, life expectancies that are a staggering 14.9 years shorterthan white residents’—all while Black people are less likely than white people to have access to mental health services and more likely to receive poor quality care.
•HR 40 can’t wait, when the suicide rate for Black children is rising faster than for any other racial and ethnic group, and the second-leading cause of death for Black youth aged 10 to 19.
•Don’t ask us to wait, when governments’ infrastructure plans have racially segregated cities across the country, creating separate conditions of life for Black and white people through “urban removal,” highway construction, restrictive zoning laws, and use of eminent domain.
•Don’t ask us to wait, when as a result of government-imposed segregation, health outcomes in Black neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by heat levels andenvironmental hazards due to the close proximity to places like oil refineries, trash incinerators, construction sites, and waste dumping sites.
•Don’t ask us to wait, when even after the broken promise of “40 acres and a mule,” formerly enslaved Black people and their descendants managed to own 14 million acres of land at the start of the 20th century, while today at least 90 percent of that land is not in their possession, due to systemic oppression, targeted racist violence, and an inequitable legal system.
•Don’t ask to us wait when the property tax system has discriminated against Black families throughout history and across the country, saddling them with an unfair tax burden – and when to this day, Black people pay 13 percent more in property taxes than similarly situated white families.
•Don’t ask us to wait, when even dying costs Black people more — end-of-life care under Medicare is $7,100 more expensive for Black individuals compared to their white counterparts.
•Don’t ask us to wait, when Black people are more than six times as likely as white people to languish behind bars for possessing drugs for personal use, even though Black and white people use drugs at the s ame rates.
•Don’t ask us to wait, when 1 in 1,000 Black men and boys in the United States can expect to die at the hands of police in a country where it’s rare for police officers to face legal consequences — and even rarer to face a conviction — for killing Black people.
•Don’t ask us to wait, when Black women in the United States are three times more likely to die of preventable pregnancy related causes than white women, and are nearly twice as likely to die from cervical cancer.
As Dr. King argued in 1963, the movement for racial equality and equal rights under the law calls on us to move courageously towards repair.
We can’t get back those years and wages that Black people lost while in bondage and unfairly behind bars. We can’t recover the lives lost to systemic anti-Blackness and heinous racial terror. We can’t undo the trauma that has wreaked havoc on Black communities and bodies. But what we can do is pass HR 40, and its Senate companion S1083. It is what the moment requires.
It is an opportunity to start moving the United States out of this deep quagmire of inequality and to finally make it whole.