Rep. Cori Bush marks June 19 with push for reparations

Washington – As Americans commemorate the emancipation of slaves on June 19Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri is using the federal vacation to push forward new reparations legislation for their descendants.

“It’s time to get it out and we needed something like this,” Bush said. “I think it’s the first of its kind on the Congressional record.”

Bush introduced HR 414, The Reparations Now Resolution, in May. The 23-page measure argues for federal reparations, citing a “moral and legal obligation” for the United States to address the “enslavement of Africans and its lasting harm” to millions of black Americans.

The bill would support other pieces of restorative justice legislation and formally recognize the momentum of state and local restorative movements. The Missouri Democrat believes that ongoing efforts in Evanston, Boston, San Francisco and his hometown of St. Louis could galvanize support for reparations at the federal level.

“Our mayor just put together a commission to be able to work on what reparations would look like for St. Louis,” said Bush, who has the support of nearly 300 local organizations. “Because we see it at the grassroots level, that’s where a lot of that push will come from, I believe.”

The resolution does not stipulate direct cash payments, but recommends that the federal government pay $14 trillion “to eliminate the racial wealth gap that currently exists between black and white Americans.”

Representative Cori Bush speaks during a press conference outside the US Capitol on Thursday, January 26, 2023. / Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Representative Cori Bush speaks during a press conference outside the US Capitol on Thursday, January 26, 2023. / Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Bush called it a “starting point” and cited scholars who estimate that the United States benefited from more than 222 million hours of forced labor between 1619 and the end of slavery in 1865, a value of about $97 trillion today.

“This country has prospered and developed through the planting and harvesting of tobacco, sugar, rice and cotton, all of which came from slavery, and that has not been compensated for,” he said. she declared.

The legislation builds on a decades-long campaign in Congress for redress. Earlier this year, Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, both Democrats, reintroduced HR 40 and S.40, which would establish a commission to study and develop proposed reparations for African Americans. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California also renewed a bill last month to create America’s first Commission on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation to examine the impact of slavery.

Lee is one of several Democratic co-sponsors of Bush’s resolution. Bush said she is waiting to hear from House Democratic leaders on her measure, but realizes it could be a no-start for Republicans in the GOP-controlled House who argue reparations could be too much. costly and divisive.

“I’m going to call people about it,” Bush warned. “There has to be restitution and compensation. There has to be rehabilitation and so that’s what I’m going to send back to them.”

A Pew Research Center study found that 48% of Democrats polled think descendants of slaves should be reimbursed in some way, while 91% of Republicans think they shouldn’t.

A progressive legislator for a second term, Bush spent two years working on the reparations resolution. She said it was one of her top priorities before being sworn in to Congress, dating back to her days as a community activist.

“I remember being on the ground in Ferguson and being like, ‘Hey, we’re doing all of this on the ground, but we don’t have anybody in Congress doing this,'” Bush recalled. “We make these soft grounds, and [there’s] nobody to hit a home run. Well, that has changed. So now we are able to hit the ball.”

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Addressing reparations for slavery

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