Members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, met virtually on Wednesday to consider H.R. 40, a bill introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).
The purpose of this legislation, according to Lee, is to establish a commission “to study and develop reparations proposals” for African-Americans.
“This commission will probe into the facts of the long-standing impact, the disparities that slavery brought about in this country. We still experience them today,” Jackson Lee told her colleagues. “The government sanctioned slavery and that is why we need a reckoning, a healing, reparative justice. We need to bring our nation together.”
The commission will also determine “if a national apology for slavery is in order.”
Radio host and conservative commentator Larry Elder and former NFL great Herschel Walker appeared as witnesses for the Republicans.
Both Elder and Walker oppose reparations.
Elder told lawmakers, “Black people have overcome to the point now that only 20 percent of black people are below the federally defined level of poverty—still too high—but in 1940 that number was 87 percent, and 20 years later that number had been reduced to 47 percent—a 40 point drop in 20 years. That is the greatest 20-year period of economic expansion for the history of black Americans. And notably, that came before the Brown v. Board of Education decision, that came before the Civil Rights bills of 1964, 1965. Despite all this racism, all this prejudice, black people still overcame.”
Elder cited a 1997 survey of American teenagers that was conducted by Time Magazine and CNN. They asked the group if they believed race was a problem in the U.S. and most responded that it was. It next asked the black teenagers, “is racism a big problem, a small problem or no problem in your own daily life?” Smiling, Elder said, “89 percent of black teens in 1997 said racism was a small problem or no problem in my own daily life.”
Moreover, “twice as many black teens as white teens said failure to take advantage of opportunities is a bigger problem than racism.”
He cited a 2007 Gallop poll which asked Americans if they “would not vote for a black person, referring to Barack Obama, would not vote for a woman, referring to Hillary Clinton, would not vote for a Mormon, referring to Mitt Romney, would not vote for a person as old as John McCain would be.”
The results? Five percent said they would not vote for a black person, 11 percent would not vote for a female, 24 percent would not vote for a Mormon and 42 percent would not vote for a 72-year-old.
“Obama, as a black person, had a smaller barrier than these three white politicians. So having this conversation right now when racism has never been a less significant problem in America is mind boggling,” argued Elder.
Elder brought up a 1964 BBC interview in which Martin Luther King Jr. said, “When a black person becomes president, that’s when we’ll know we’ve reached a point where people are being evaluated based on the content of their character to the extent that it is reasonable to expect.”
Finally, Elder shared the advice his father had given him during his childhood. “Hard work wins, you get out of life what you put into it, you cannot control the outcome but you are 100 percent in control of the effort, and before you complain about what other people did to you, go to the nearest mirror and say to yourself ‘what could I have done to change the outcome?’”
“No matter how hard you work, no matter how good you are, sooner or later, bad things will happen to you. How you respond to those bad things will tell your mother and me if we raised a man.
Regarding the Democratic Party, his father said, “They want to give you something for nothing, and when you try to get something for nothing, you almost always end up getting nothing for something.”
Elder’s father was a smart man.
Walker told the subcommittee members, “We use black power to create white guilt. My approach is biblical: how can I ask my Heavenly Father to forgive me if I can’t forgive my brother?”
Wish they had shown Jackson Lee’s face when she heard that remark.
Walker continued, “America is the greatest country in the world for me, a melting pot of a lot of great races, a lot of great minds that have come together with different ideas to make Americans the greatest country on Earth. Many have died trying to get into America. No one is dying trying to get out.”
“Reparations, where does the money come from?” he asked. “Does it come from all the other races except the black taxpayers? Who is black? What percentage of black must you be to receive reparations? Do you go to 23 and Me or a DNA test to determine the percentage of blackness? Some American ancestors just came to this country 80 years ago, their ancestors wasn’t even here during slavery. Some black immigrants weren’t here during slavery, nor their ancestors. Some states didn’t even have slavery.”
“I asked my mom, who’s in her mid-80s, her thoughts on the issue prior to the hearing.”
“Her words: I do not believe in reparations. Who is the money gonna go to? Has anyone thought about paying the families who lost someone in the Civil War, who fought for their freedom? … If you give a man a fish, you feed him a day. You teach him to fish, you feed him a lifetime.”
“Reparation is only feeding you for a day. It is removing a sign ‘for whites only’ and replacing it with the sign ‘no education here.’ Black Americans are asking for a hand up, not a handout…”
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) stated the argument against reparations. He told his colleagues, “Yes, there are racists in our society. There are racists of all colors in every society. It is the baser side of human nature, but no nation has struggled harder to transcend that nature and isolate and marginalize its racists than have Americans.”
He argued, “I can’t imagine a more divisive, polarizing or unjust measure than one that would by government force require people who never owned slaves to pay reparations to those who never were slaves based not on anything they’ve done, but because of what race they were born.”
“Fortunately,” the congressman said, “we have a Constitution that forbids such an injustice.”