Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said Friday the United States should celebrate Juneteenth, the day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., by enacting Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-TX) legislation forming a commission to study proposals for issuing reparations.
“Happy #Juneteenth!” the New York lawmaker said on social media. “To celebrate, let’s pass legislation that makes Juneteenth a national holiday and enact H.R. 40, Rep @JacksonLeeTX18’s Commission on Reparations”:
To celebrate, let’s pass legislation that makes Juneteenth a national holiday and enact H.R. 40, Rep @JacksonLeeTX18’s Commission on Reparations.
How are you honoring today?
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 19, 2020
Jackson Lee introduced H.R.40, formally titled the “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act,” in January 2019. The legislation establishes a commission to explore the possibilities of compensating descendants of slaves in the U.S., spanning from 1619 to the present day 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,” per the measure.
The text states:
To address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.
The House held a hearing on slavery reparations last year — a proposal that remained widely unpopular among the American electorate. The logistics of such a massive proposal also remain up in the air, from cost to the basic process of determining who would qualify for compensation.
Breitbart News’s Jerome Hudson posed many of these questions:
A paper published by Social Science Quarterly estimated cash reparations payments could cost between $5.9 trillion and $14.2 trillion.
Who exactly would be on the hook, 150 years later, to pay a $14 trillion debt? Would ancestors of the more than 642,000 Union soldiers who died to abolish slavery be exempt? What about the 2 million men who risked their lives during the war?
The United States became home to more immigrants in the three decades after the Civil War than during the previous three centuries combined. They and their ancestors had nothing to do with slavery. By 1907 1.3 million people had entered the country through Ellis Island alone. Again, they and their ancestors had nothing to do with slavery. More than 50 million more people immigrated here over the next four decades. They and their ancestors had nothing to do with slavery. Would we exclude these innocents from paying reparations?
What about the more than 8 million Americans who in the 2010 census identified as two or more races. There are 3.1 million African-Americans who identify themselves as mixed race. Another 1.8 million people self-identified as white and black.
What happens to them?
Others politicians have joined the calls for action, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who last year called for a “full-blown conversation about reparations”:
Let’s be clear: It’s time for our government to have a full-blown national conversation about reparations. We must be honest about our history, and do what’s right so that our nation can begin to heal. #AtlantaWithWarren pic.twitter.com/Lsl47JezpM
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) November 22, 2019
This year’s Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, comes at a time of racial unrest in the country, plagued by weeks of protests, riots, and tense political debates on the roles of police departments across the country.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi / Facebook