Letter: ‘Slavery is one of America’s original sins’

H.R. 40 establishes a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African-Americans. The commission will examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. They will identify the role of the federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery, forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed slaves and their descendants, and lingering negative effects of slavery on present African-Americans and society.

We have a commission with funding for a Just Transition for our local coal miners, power plant employees and their communities as we move away from a fossil fuel economy. An H.R. 40 commission is very similar, except it proposes to redress 400 years of cruelty and injustice to African-Americans.

Slavery is one of America’s original sins, and our country has yet to atone for the atrocities placed upon generations of enslaved Africans and their descendants.

The designation of H.R. 40 is intended to address the promise made by Gen. William T. Sherman in the 1865 redistribution of 400,000 acres of formerly Confederate-owned coastal land in South Carolina and Florida, subdivided into 40-acre plots. In addition to the more well-known land redistribution, the order also established self-governance for the region and provided for protection by military authorities of the settlements.

Later, Southern sympathizer and former slaveholder President Andrew Johnson overturned the order and this plan. This represented the first systematic form of freed African Americans reparations, but it did not succeed.

From the time of enslavement, racial disparities in access to education, health care, housing, insurance, employment and other social goods are directly attributable to the damaging legacy of slavery and racial discrimination today.

The reparation movement does not focus on payments to individuals but to remedies that can be created in as many forms as necessary to equitably address the many kinds of injuries sustained from chattel slavery and its continuing impacts. A focus on payments is an empty gesture and betrays a lack of understanding of the depth of the unaddressed moral issues that continue to haunt this nation.

Experience shows that we have not escaped our history. Though the Civil Rights Movement was powerful, it was not followed by a commitment to truth and reconciliation. For that reason, the legacy of racial inequality has persisted.

Call, text or email Sen. Michael Bennet at 202-224-5852, Sen. John Hickenlooper at 202-224-5941 and Rep. Lauren Boebert at 202-225-4761 and urge them to support H.R. 40.

John Spezia

Steamboat Springs

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