A group of House progressives led by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., have revived discussions at the federal level about giving reparations to Black Americans who descended from slaves and Americans of African descent.
Bush held a press conference on Wednesday unveiling her Reparations Now resolution, which declares “that the United States has a moral and legal obligation to provide reparations for the enslavement of Africans and its massive harm on the lives of millions.”
She spoke alongside fellow Squad members Reps. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., as well as Senate candidate Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and freshman Rep. Summer Lee., D-Pa., and a host of activists from around the country.
“Black people in our country cannot wait any longer for our government to begin addressing… all of the harm it has caused since the founding, that it continues to perpetuate each and every day all across our communities, all across this country,” Bush said. “Let us speak this truth, uncomfortable as it may be: Our country was not founded on the principle that all people are created equal. It was founded at the expense of the lives, freedom and well-being of Black people, African folks who they stole.”
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“The truth is uncomfortable,” Bush added, before explaining how slavery was an “integral part of our country’s development.”
“By 1831, the United States was delivering nearly half of the world’s raw cotton crop as a result of chattel slavery. In 1861 alone, the value placed on cotton produced by enslaved Black people was $250 million, or more than $8 billion today. All of this happened not in spite of the federal government, but because of it,” the St. Louis Democrat said.
At the end of the press conference, Bush fielded a question from Fox News Digital about where federal funding for a federal reparations program would come from but did not give an answer.
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“We’re still having those kinds of conversations,” the congresswoman said. “We’re working with this administration, we’re talking with other members of Congress… but I’ll say this, if we can continue to fund these endless wars, or we can continue to put trillions of dollars into forever wars… we’re talking about things that are happening now.”
She and the other progressives repeatedly called on Congress to take up H.R. 40, a bill re-introduced in January by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, which would establish a federal task force to “examine and develop” proposals for reparations for African Americans.
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It comes just as the reparations debate gains steam in the blue stronghold of California, where state lawmakers are now tasked with considering recommendations of a task force that include giving up to $1.2 million to every qualifying Black resident. California entered the Union as a free state in 1850, though it still allowed enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act.
Rep. Barbara Lee, who co-led H.R. 40 alongside Jackson Lee and is running for an open Senate seat in California, praised the task force’s recommendations when it was her turn at the podium.
“I’m proud of California for leading the way, but I want our country to follow suit,” Lee said. “It’s far past time for the federal government to catch up, and to make sure that Congress understands that it must move forward.”
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“We know it can be done. And now we begin our efforts to build a commission on truth, racial healing, and transformation. And of course, our truth commission, the transformation aspect of it is reparations. It’s not about reconciliation, because there’s nothing to reconcile. It’s about transformation. It’s about dismantling these systems of oppression and the systems of discrimination and repairing the damage.”