ACLU Statement on House Judiciary Hearing on H.R. 40

February 17, 2021 8:45 am

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WASHINGTON — Today, the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties will host a hearing on H.R. 40 – a bill that would study the history of slavery, the role federal and state governments played in supporting slavery, and racial discrimination against the descendants of enslaved Africans, and make recommendations for reparations to Congress.

Jeffery Robinson, director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality, issued the following statement:

“We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. Today’s hearing will feature Kathy Masaoka, one of the Japanese Americans who successfully pushed for redress after her family was rounded up by the U.S. government and locked in prison camps. Ms. Masaoka will deliver a critical message – our country has provided reparations to affected people in the past, and H.R. 40 is a realistic mechanism to begin the discussion of how to accomplish that again. It’s time our country accounts for the hundreds of years of brutal mistreatment of Black people during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the enduring structural racism endemic to our society. H.R. 40 would create the framework for that necessary process of atonement.

“The ACLU believes all Americans should seriously consider the issue of reparations, and H.R. 40 opens the door to a public conversation about what reparations could look like. With increased momentum behind the movement to combat white supremacy, it is imperative that Congress must pass H.R. 40 in 2021.”

Kathy Masaoka, co-chair of Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress and member of the coordinating committee for Nikkei Progressives, issued the following statement:

“The Japanese American movement for redress and reparations was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and supported by Black organizations and legislators. H.R. 40 would bring our movement full circle, providing a long overdue foundation for redress owed to the Black descendants of hundreds of years of state-sponsored racism and oppression. Reconciliation and reparations are not about taking from one to give to the other. Rather, it is a means of using our nation’s resources — a nation whose wealth was built on slavery — to heal the impact of hundreds of years of exploitation and to work with Black communities to build a path toward justice and healing. This is a necessary step for the Congress and the federal government to take. And it is long overdue.”

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