Because our upcoming issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy is devoted to the theme of “The Ethics of Memory: What Does It Mean to Apologize for Historical Wrongs,” I was alerted to an email that was sent out by the American Civil Liberties Union today. They reminded us that the bill H.R. 40 , Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, is still before the 116th Congress (2019-2020) and stress the urgency for action because there is a chance the final draft might be reported out of the judiciary committee before the end of the year. Although the bill was first introduced on January 3, 2019 and subcommittee hearings were held on June 19, 2019, the ACLU writes: “Over the course of 2020, our country has gone through what many are calling a national reckoning on race. This was sparked by the tragic but all-too-familiar killings of Black lives – George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others – at the hands of police.” To achieve racial justice, they continue, we must “examine the impact of slavery and its legacy, and make strides toward reparations---and H.R. 40 is a path forward on that.”
The following is the bill summary:
This bill establishes the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. The commission shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. Among other requirements, the commission shall identify (1) the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society.
Earlier, we published on our blog a transcript of the testimony by Ta-Nehisi Coates that was delivered before the congressional hearing on HR 40 on June 19th. His influential 2014 article “The Case for Reparations” in The Atlantic revived the issue of reparations for slavery and its legacy.