Biden Backs Reparation Study As Democrats Eye 'Reparative’ Bill

Connor Grant | February 18, 2021

The Biden Administration is supporting a study on reparations for black Americans, backing Democratic lawmakers who are renewing efforts to create a commission to make recommendations on compensation for slavery.

On Wednesday, a House panel heard testimony for legislation that would create a commission to examine slavery and discrimminatory policies against black people throughout U.S. history. The commission would aim to educate the public on it’s studies as well as suggest compensation for slavery - possibly financial payment to descendants of slaves. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the Biden Administration’s stance on the commission during a press briefing on Wednesday. Psaki expressed that the administration supports a study on the issue -  but did not reveal if President Biden would sign the bill. 

“He certainly would support a study of reparations,” Psaki said. “He understands we don’t need a study to take action right now on systemic racism, so he wants to take actions within his own government in the meantime.”

Despite Democrats controlling Congress and the Presidency, a reparations bill may be difficult to pass as similar bills have been proposed for decades but have never been implemented. 

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) proposed the bill with the support of 173 co-sponsors. She cited racial inequality throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as the driving force for her bill. During the testimony Wednesday, she provided statistics from the Center for Disease Control indicating that black people are 3 times as likely to be hospitalized for COVID and twice as likely to die from the disease. Rep. Jackson Lee believes reparations would help these black communities during the pandemic and contribute to unifying the country.

“The government sanctioned slavery,” Jackson Lee said. “And that is what we need, a reckoning, a healing reparative justice.”

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Freshman congressman Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) argued against a reparations commission. He explained that his great-great grandfather escaped slavery and became a successful entrepreneur. He also condemned redistribution of wealth, calling it a failed policy. 

“Though it is impractical and a nonstarter for the United States government to pay reparations, it is also unfair and heartless to give Black Americans the hope that this is a reality,” Owens said.

Former NFL star Herschel Walker has been outspoken on the commission's possible formation. He believes “reparations teaches separation” saying, “I feel it continues to let us know we’re still African American rather than just American,”

According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll taken in the fall of 2019, just 29% of Americans support financial reparations for slavery. A strong majority of black Americans, 74%, would support reparations while just 15% of white Americans would. 

H/T Associated Press