Two weeks out from Inauguration Day, President-Elect Joe Biden could send a strong message to the Black Americans who helped propel him to the nation's highest office. In the midst of a wild week on Capitol Hill, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has reintroduced HR 40, a bill that would examine providing reparations to the descendants of slaves. If passed, the bill would create a commission of 13 people dedicated to studying the impact of the transatlantic slave trade on American society and "recommend appropriate remedies" to Congress.
“The call for reparations represents a commitment to entering a constructive dialogue on the role of slavery and racism in shaping present-day conditions in our community and American society,” Lee said.
“It is a holistic bill in the sense that it seeks to establish a commission to also examine the moral and social implications of slavery.”
The idea of providing reparations to Black Americans is one that has been floated around for decades. However, it has not made its way to the United States Capitol in a major way. Given the role that Black voters played in the election of the President-Elect, many believe that he will publicly support the groundbreaking bill.
“Given the role that Black people played in the election, getting him nominated and saving his campaign — there’s no reason they shouldn’t support this bill,” Professor Mary Frances Berry of the University of Pennsylvania said.
“This is one of the best ways to make good on their promise to attack systemic racism and white supremacy and elevate the economic and social condition of Black people.”
The President-Elect has not supported HR 40 specifically, but he has said that he is willing to support a study of what reparations could look like in the future. A statement from Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and Biden also says that they are willing to "address the systemic racism that persists across our institutions today.”
“If they were to [support HR 40], it would go a long way toward removing the bad taste some people have in their mouths over having to support them,” Berry added.
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