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'We're not going to move on': Hakeem Jeffries cosponsors slavery reparations bill

Potential House Democratic leader has suggested that the U.S. government follow the lead of the South African government, which paid apartheid victims $4,600 each in 2003.

Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the potential House Democratic leader who has been endorsed by outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is a cosponsor of the slavery reparations study legislation currently pending in the House.

Formally titled the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, H.R. 40 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in April 2021, but it has not been put up for a full House vote.

The bill would establish a 13-member commission to "examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies." The United States declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776.

"Year after year, decade after decade, century after century, we've come a long way," Jeffries said during a Brookings Institution discussion addressing "structural racism" in U.S. public policy institutions in February 2020. "But, you know, some notion of truth and reconciliation, how do we move forward toward a more perfect union, I think has got to be part of any conversation connected to H.R. 40."

Jeffries suggested that Congress follow South Africa's lead on reparations. In 2003, the South African government paid $4,600 in restitution to victims of apartheid.

"I would also suggest that part of what needs to happen is, you know, truth and reconciliation, similar to what was done in South Africa, where there was just — so that it wasn't just a backward-looking examination," Jeffries said. "It was, okay, how do we move forward as a society?" 

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the reparations study bill, Jeffries said, "America is a great country, we've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go, and systemic racism has been in the soil of this land since 1619."

The New York congressman declared that "we're not simply going to move on."

Jeffries also said the U.S. has a "birth defect" with regard to race.

"So no we're just not simply going to move on," Jeffries said. "We're not going to move on from the fact that the reconstruction effort was short circuited."

Jeffries added that the "least we can do is study these historic wrongs."

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer support the reparations study bill.