U.S. Rep. Neal’s signature missing on Reparations Bill

  • U.S. Rep. Richie Neal. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Published: 11/20/2020 8:52:54 AM
Modified: 11/20/2020 8:52:41 AM

U.S. Rep. Richie Neal, we write to respectfully request that you add your name to the list of co-sponsors of H.R. 40, “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.” The resolution was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by the late John Conyers (MI) in 1989, and — 30 years later — in 2019 it was sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX). It now has 162 co-sponsors and we urge you to make it 163. You are one of the two -representatives in the nine= person Massachusetts delegation not to be a co-sponsor. Now is your chance to be on the right side of history.

What Is H.R. 40?

“The commission shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. Among other requirements, the commission shall identify (1) the role of federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, (2) forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and (3) and lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and society as well as make recommendations to Congress concerning education of the American public and reparations.”

Why Is It Called H.R. 40?

On January 16, 1865, four months before the Civil War ended, Gen. William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15, which resulted from a meeting between Sherman, Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, and 20 leaders of the Black community. Such a meeting was unprecedented and it was the 20 Black men who pushed for massive land re-distribution. As a consequence of their advocacy, the Field Order stated that: “Each family shall have a plot of not more than 40 acres of tillable ground.” Later on the mule was added. Sherman’s Field Order and promise, tragically, were rescinded by President Andrew Johnson in the fall of that year. All of the land that had been allotted to Black families was given back to the owners of the plantation where they had been enslaved. The injustice had resumed.

Why H.R. 40 Now?

Black Americans and millions of their supporters are still waiting for the United States government to do something substantive about the long history of injustices and worse such as: slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, the exclusion of Black people from the New Deal, racial segregation officially sanctioned by the Federal Housing Authority and the Supreme Court, denial of G.I. Bill benefits to Black veterans, which helped build white wealth, racial housing covenants, resistance to affirmative action, and mass incarceration.

As a consequence, in 2020 systemic racism has created the following: (1) a 10 to 1 wealth gap between black and white households ($17,000 compared to $171,000); (2) segregated, underfunded, and inferior public schools across the country; (3) a wage gap between Blacks and whites that is 73 cents to the dollar. The gap between Black men and white men is 51 cents to the dollar; (4) a homeownership gap of 72% to 42%, the largest in 50 years; (5) Black Americans are five times as likely to live in high poverty neighborhoods as white Americans; and (6) Black Americans account for 39% of COVID-19 related deaths even though they comprise only 15% of the general population!

“The sins of slavery,” says Ta-Nehesi Coates, “did not stop with slavery.” On the contrary, slavery was but the initial crime in a long tradition of crime, even plunder, that could be traced to the present day.” Your signature will help address these on-going crimes.

The Bridge4Unity is a multi-racial dialogue project in the valley working toward racial reconciliation. It members are: Allen Davis, Neftali Dunn, Sharon Dunn, Paula Green, Amilcar Shabazz and Deborah Snow. Other community racial justice advocates are: Sherrill Hogen, of Charlemont; and Kate Stevens, of Ashfield.


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