Count New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer among those supporting House Resolution 40, legislation by Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee that would form a commission to consider reparations proposals for African Americans.
“I’ve always believed racism is the poison of America. When Alexis de Tocqueville came to America in the 1830s – he was a French, famous historian,” Schumer said. “He said America was a nobody then and he said, America is going to become the greatest country in the world … it was a puny country compared to France, or Britain or Russia. But one thing could do it in: race and racism.” Schumer said.
The senator continued:
“He said that in the 1830s. Well, it’s still true. Racism is the poison of America, and the disparities in race affect everything. Not just the obvious things, but the non-obvious things like pollution, climate change,” Schumer said.
HR 40 is intended to examine the institution of slavery in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present, and further recommend appropriate remedies.
Since the initial introduction of the legislation, its proponents have made substantial progress in elevating the discussion of reparations and reparatory justice at the national level and joining the mainstream international debate on the issues. “Though some have tried to deflect the importance of these conversations by focusing on individual monetary compensation, the real issue is whether and how this nation can come to grips with the legacy of slavery that still infects current society,” Jackson-Lee said.
Through legislation, resolutions, news, and litigation, she said Congress is moving closer to making more strides in the movement toward reparations.
“Today there are more people at the table – more activists, more scholars, more CEO’s, more state and local officials, and more Members of Congress,” Jackson-Lee said.
“However, despite this progress and the election of the first American President of African descent, the legacy of slavery lingers heavily in this nation. While we have focused on the social effects of slavery and segregation, its continuing economic implications remain largely ignored by mainstream analysis,” she said.
Those economic issues are the root cause of many critical issues in the African-American community today, such as education, healthcare and criminal justice policy, including policing practices and 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, Jackson-Lee said.
Schumer joins a long list of supporters of HR 40, including Democratic Sens. Edward Markey, Richard Durbin, Mazie Horono, Christopher Coons, Bob Casey, Tammy Duckworth, and Chris Van Hollen.
Additionally, Democratic presidential hopefuls Corey Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuch, have all expressed support for the measure.
“I have tried to address racial inequality, I have felt very strongly about it from even when I ran for congress, and a bigoted campaign was run against me in 1980, and so I’ve tried to do a lot, but more has to be done,” Schumer said. “So what I’m telling you is, I will support the legislation by Senator Cory Booker and Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee to establish a commission to study the issue of reparations for slavery and discrimination,” he said.
The senator noted that he’s accomplished some reparations-related legislation already, including securing $130 billion in the 2018 budget.
“That did a lot in terms of healthcare. We doubled the child care block grant, we got more funding for public housing and Pell grants, and that was something,” Schumer said.
“We also are very strong on expungement and the sealing of records so that people who five years ago, or twenty years ago, had a small amount of marijuana in their pocket, are not going to have unfair difficulty in finding jobs and living decent lives,” he said.
“The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow are still with us … and that’s why I’m supporting this legislation,” Schumer said.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Informer.