is a debate that has been going on for decades in the United States and could end in a very specific context. A commission of the US Congress was to vote Wednesday on the principle of financial compensation to repair the misdeeds of slavery in the United States, a historic first vote in a country still marked by racial discrimination. But the meeting dragged on and the bill on “reparations” had not yet been submitted for debate at the end of the afternoon.
The text aims to create a commission of experts responsible for making proposals on compensation for the descendants of some four million Africans forcibly brought to the United States between 1619 and 1865, the date of the abolition of slavery. The legislation, a first version of which was drafted almost 30 years ago, has become central again since the deaths of several African Americans during police interventions prompted the country to look into its slavery past and multiple forms of discrimination. suffered by the black minority, which represents nearly 13% of the population.
Republican support needed
The vote comes as a white policeman is on trial in Minneapolis, accused of having killed during an arrest a black forty-something, George Floyd, who has become a global symbol of victims of police violence. This “historic” vote is intended to “continue a national debate on how to combat the mistreatment suffered by African Americans during slavery, segregation and structural racism which remains endemic in our society today”, he said. said in a statement the chairman of the judicial committee of the House of Representatives, Jerry Nadler. “Reparations are ultimately a matter of respect and reconciliation,” Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, who supports the text, said in the statement.
He should pass the obstacle of the judicial commission. The lower house of Congress, where the Democrats are in the majority, will then have to approve it in plenary for the first time, at an undetermined date. But the fate of the text is uncertain in the Senate, where Democrats will have to obtain the votes of at least ten Republicans for it to be finally adopted. In 2019, Mitch McConnell, then leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, said he was against the idea. “I don’t think repairs for something that happened 150 years ago, and for which people alive today are not responsible, is a good idea,” he explained.
In 2019, the median annual income for a black household was $ 43,771, compared to $ 71,664 for a white household, according to official statistics. Despite advances in the struggle for their civil rights in the 1960s, African Americans still have less education, have poorer social security coverage, and live shorter lives than whites. They are also incarcerated disproportionately compared to the rest of the American population.
The bill addresses “the injustice, cruelty, brutality and fundamental inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865”. A group of 13 experts will thus have to make compensation proposals “for the institution of slavery and (the) racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans.” These experts must make recommendations on how to calculate this compensation, what form it should take and who will be eligible.
The issue of compensation had been raised by several candidates for the 2020 Democratic primary in the larger debate on racial inequalities and income differences, and before a decision at the federal level, the issue of reparations has already been addressed at the local level.
The small town of Evanston, near Chicago, in March became the first to decide to compensate its black residents to the tune of $ 10 million over the next 10 years. Residents who meet the criteria will each receive $ 25,000 to finance their mortgage or the renovation of their homes. And in 2019, students at the prestigious Georgetown University in Washington symbolically approved the creation of a fund for the benefit of descendants of slaves sold in the 19th century by the Jesuits who created the establishment.