In response to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s recent dismissal of reparations as not “a good idea” for the U.S. government to consider giving descendants of enslaved people, especially since no one currently alive “is responsible,” “Between the World and Me” author Ta-Nehisi Coates told lawmakers at a House committee hearing that the debate over reparations is “a dilemma of inheritance.”
Coates told lawmakers that many of the inequalities created by centuries of slavery persist today, including in the form of economic and health disparities. Watch Coates above read his 2014 “The Case for Reparations” essay here, read some of his testimony below:
The method of cultivating this asset was neither gentle cajoling nor persuasion, but torture, rape, and child trafficking. Enslavement reigned for 250 years on these shores. When it ended, this country could have extended its hallowed principles — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — to all, regardless of color. But America had other principles in mind. And so, for a century after the Civil War, black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror, a campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell.
It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement, but the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy, respects no such borders, and the god of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs. Coup d’états and convict leasing. Vagrancy laws and debt peonage. Redlining and racist G.I. bills. Poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism.
We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox. But he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney. He was alive for the blinding of Isaac Woodard. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama and a regime premised on electoral theft. Majority Leader McConnell cited civil rights legislation yesterday, as well he should, because he was alive to witness the harassment, jailing, and betrayal of those responsible for that legislation by a government sworn to protect them. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the majority leader.
What they know, what this committee must know, is that while emancipation deadbolted the door against the bandits of America, Jim Crow wedged the windows wide open. And that is the thing about Senator McConnell’s “something”: It was 150 years ago. And it was right now.
The typical black family in this country has one-tenth the wealth of the typical white family. Black women die in childbirth at four times the rate of white women. And there is, of course, the shame of this land of the free boasting the largest prison population on the planet, of which the descendants of the enslaved make up the largest share.
NEW YORK – On Tuesday, the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis will testify on Capitol Hill. The topic: “Stand Your Ground” laws. Sybrina Fulton and Lucia McBath will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. The hearing, according to a notice on the Senate Judiciary Committee website is entitled “‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force.”
Tallahassee, Florida-based state attorney William Meggs, and Harvard Law School professor and director of the Criminal Justice Institute Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. are also expected to testify, along with a senior fellow from the Libertarian Cato Institute and John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D., President of the Crime Prevention Research Center in Swarthmore, PA.
Fulton is the mother of Trayvon Martin, whose shooting death and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, on second degree murder and manslaughter charges touched off more than a year of controversy regarding Florida’s “stand your ground” laws and similar laws across the country. (Zimmerman didn’t use “Stand Your Ground” as his defense, but it was referenced by one of the jurors in the case in interviews after the verdict, and it altered Florida’s jury instructions in cases like Zimmerman’s.)
A foundation founded by Fulton and Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, is working to amend “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida and in the more than 20 other states with similar laws. George Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense.
McBath’s son, Jordan Davis, was shot to death on November 23, 2012 at a Jacksonville gas station as he sat in a car with three friends. Michael Dunn is expected to use the “Stand Your Ground” self defense law in his upcoming trial for Davis’ killing. Dunn is expected to go to trial in January.
Black History Month is coming to a close with a historic moment honoring the late Rosa Parks. The unveiling for Parks’ statue at Capitol Hill’s Statuary Hall took place today. President Barack Obama spoke at the ceremony.
“This morning, we celebrate a seamstress slight in stature but mighty in courage,” the president said. “In a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America and change the world.”
Parks is the first African-American woman to have a statue placed in the hall. “As the first African-American woman to be honored in Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol, Mrs. Parks’ dedication to ensuring no human being is treated like a second class citizen in this country will be remembered and discussed for generations to come,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge.
Each state donates two statues of their most prominent citizens to Statuary Hall. The 109th Congress authorized this tribute in 2005. Parks will represent the state of Alabama, where she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and became the “mother of the civil rights movement.”
Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks (Photo: CBS/Landov)
The late Rosa Parks continues to make history. Her likeness will be depicted in a statue later this year at Capitol Hill’s Statuary Hall, making her the first African-American woman to achieve the mark.
Each of the 50 states donates two statues of their most prominent citizens to Statuary Hall. Rosa Parks will be representative of the state of Alabama where she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and became the “mother of the civil rights movement.” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced the statue would be revealed in late 2013. As chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, he is also in charge of artwork in the Capitol.
Congress passed an order to place the statue in the hall in 2005. In 2008, the National Endowment for the Arts announced a design competition calling artists to submit designs for the statue. The U.S. Postal Service is also commemorating the life of Rosa Parks. On Feb. 4, the postal service is issuing a special “Historic Forever” stamp in honor of Parks’ 100th birthday.
Detroit will be the first city to sell the Rosa Parks stamp.
(Via CBS News) – As revelers in Times Square and cities and towns across the country wait for the ball to drop to ring in the new year, politicians in Washington have announced that a ball is not likely to drop on the average taxpayer. Negotiators have come to an agreement on the so-called “fiscal cliff” – and with less than three hours to spare, CBS News has confirmed.
Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Capitol Hill to brief Senate Democrats on the details of the deal; both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have signed off on the agreement, White House and congressional sources told CBS News’ Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett.