Georgian and College Football Hall of Famer Herschel Walker told a House Judiciary Committee meeting on Wednesday that Black Americans should not get reparations, citing moral and other reasons.
“We use black power to create white guilt. My approach is biblical: how can I ask my Heavenly Father to forgive me if I can’t forgive my brother?” asked the former NFL player who campaigned for former President Donald Trump last year.
“America is the greatest country in the world for me, a melting pot of a lot of great races, a lot of great minds that have come together with different ideas to make Americans the greatest country on Earth. Many have died trying to get into America. No one is dying trying to get out,” he said in the virtual hearing.
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Walker joined the discussion in the session of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which debated H.R. 40, a piece of legislation that would establish a federal commission to look at the issue of reparations to Black Americans. The legislation was first introduced by the late Rep. John Conyers of Michigan in 1989 but it has never received a floor vote in the House.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas reintroduced it in January. Walker on Wednesday was joined by Hilary O. Shelton, head of the NAACP’s Washington, D.C., California Secretary of State Shirley Weber and others in discussing the bill, which has 162 co-sponsors. 58-year-old Walker, who played in the old USFL and NFL for over 15 years, asked during the hearing how Blackness would be measured if such a bill were passed.
“Reparations, where does the money come from? Does it come from all the other races except the black taxpayers? Who is black? What percentage of black must you be to receive reparations? Do you go to 23andMe or a DNA test to determine the percentage of blackness? Some American ancestors just came to this country 80 years ago, their ancestors wasn’t even here during slavery. Some black immigrants weren’t here during slavery, nor their ancestors. Some states didn’t even have slavery.”
The former Dallas Cowboys star said before the hearing, he asked his mom what he thought about reparations. “…Her words: I do not believe in reparations. Who is the money gonna go to? Has anyone thought about paying the families who lost someone in the Civil War, who fought for their freedom?”
“Reparation is only feeding you for a day. It is removing a sign ‘for whites only’ and replacing it with the sign ‘no education here,’” he said. The football star does not think White people should have to atone for slavery. “Who is the guilty party?” Walker, who is a 1982 Heisman Trophy winner asked. “Should we start at the beginning where African Americans sold your African American ancestors into slavery? And to a slave trader who eventually sold African American ancestors to slave owners?”
“I feel it continues to let us know we’re still African American, rather than just American. Reparation or atonement is outside the teaching of Jesus Christ.”
The issue of reparation for slavery has been raised by descendants of slaves in the Americas and the Caribbean for several years now. The belief that white Americans owe black Americans a moral debt for compensation for slavery, Jim Crow and long-standing racism has been ongoing since emancipation.
Critics of reparation say that it would be difficult to make fair calculations as to how much victims would take and in what form, considering the years involved. Those who have supported reparations say it is necessary to help redress the wrongs of slavery and racial discrimination. It would also help to resolve the continuing troubles of America’s black community. It is documented that “black Americans’ continuing poverty is a result of America deliberately frustrating the efforts of black Americans to accumulate and retain wealth until the 1980s.”
Nationwide polling shows, however, that compensation for those affected by slavery is an unpopular policy. In the journal Social Science Quarterly, a University of Connecticut researcher, Thomas Craemer estimated that it would cost between $5.9 trillion and $14.2 trillion to give historical reparations.
The journal, cited by Newsweek, said Craemer came up with those figures by tabulating how many hours all slaves worked in the United States from when the country was officially established in 1776 until 1865 when slavery was officially abolished. He subsequently multiplied the amount of time they worked by average wage prices at the time, and then a compounding interest rate of 3 percent per year to calculate the reparation figure.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Jackson Lee chastised Republican lawmakers for selecting two Black conservatives to speak against reparations.
“Like our last hearing, the minority has selected two African-American witnesses to speak against HR 40. That is their privilege. But we know that justice, facts and that life that was led and continues to be led by African Americans is on our side,” she said.