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In wake of COVID-19, renewed calls for reparations

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Supporters of a commission that would study and consider reparations for Black Americans are renewing their efforts as the death of George Floyd and the ravages of COVID-19 bring renewed attention to the nation’s racial disparities. (Feb. 17)

Video Transcript

SHEILA JACKSON LEE: According to the latest estimates from the US Centers for Disease Control, Black people get COVID-19 at a rate nearly 1 and 1/2 times higher than that of white people. They are hospitalized at a rate nearly four times higher than them, and are three times as likely to die from the disease. We've seen it in our cities and our rural communities across America.

Interestingly enough, a recent peer reviewed study from Harvard Medical School suggests that reparations for African-Americans could have cut COVID-19 transmission and infection rates, both among Blacks and the population at large.

BURGESS OWENS: I'm a product of that evil practice. My great great grandfather, Silas, arrived here in the belly of a slave ship, sold to the Burgess plantation. He escaped through the Underground Railroad, and died a successful entrepreneur.

It is impractical and a non-starter for the United States government to pay reparations. It is also unfair and heartless to give Black Americans the hope that this is a reality. The reality is that Black American history is not one of a hapless, hopeless race oppressed by a more powerful white race. It is instead a history of millions of middle and wealthy class Black Americans throughout the early 20th century achieving the American dream.

SHEILA JACKSON LEE: Mr. Owens has eloquently spoken of the overcomers. We're successful, we believe in determination, and we believe in overcoming the many bad balls that we have been thrown. We've caught them, and we've kept on going.

That is not the point of HR 40. The government sanctioned slavery, and that is what we need. A reckoning, a healing, reparative justice. We need to bring our nation together.