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. In over a decade, the first congressional hearing on slavery reparations was held on Wednesday, June 19 (Juneteenth), and as expected, the debate among the pro and against sides were rather interesting.
Attitudes towards reparations for slavery tend to polarise the country, with whites highly against reparations while blacks tend to support. Those who support reparations say it is necessary to help redress the wrongs of slavery and racial discrimination.
Just a day before the hearing, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected the idea of reparations.
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“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” McConnell told reporters.
“We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African American president.”
Apart from citing the election of former President Barack Obama as one way the nation has dealt with its “original sin of slavery,” the Republic lawmaker believes that it would be hard to know whom to pay.
“I think we’re always a work in progress in this country but no one currently alive was responsible for that and I don’t think we should be trying to figure out how to compensate for it,” he was quoted by the CNN.
His comments, leading up to the hearing sparked a debate on whether the United States has done enough to atone for its dark history.
The witnesses who appeared before the House Judiciary Subcommittee to testify on the need for reparations included author Ta-Nehisi Coates, actor Danny Glover as well as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker. Known for his 2014 article “The Case for Reparations,” Coates called out Mitch McConnell for his comments.
Scroll through to read and listen to their testimonies: