Cory Booker Introduces Reparations Commission Bill

Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced on April 8 that he would introduce a reparations commission bill in the Senate. Booker became the first Democratic presidential candidate to make a concrete commitment to reparations, a hot button issue ahead of the 2020 presidential election. In a statement, Booker said many of the domestic policies that pushed millions of Americans into the middle class had “systematically excluded Blacks.”

“Since slavery in this country, we have had overt policies fueled by white supremacy and racism that have oppressed African Americans economically for generations,” Booker said. “This bill is a way of addressing head-on the persistence of racism, white supremacy, and implicit racial bias in our country.”

Booker’s bill is a companion to HR40, a bill originally introduced by former Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.) and now sponsored by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), CNN reported.

Reparations have become a key issue among Democratic presidential hopefuls in the 2020 election. Last week, Reverend Al Sharpton questioned candidates at the National Action Network Convention in New York about the issue; Booker, among others, pledged his support. During a recent town hall event in Orangeburg, South Carolina with CNN’s Don Lemon, the New Jersey Democrat expressed frustration about how reparations were being discussed.

“Do I support legislation that is race-conscious about balancing the economic scales?” Booker told Lemon. “Not only do I support it, but I have legislation that actually does it.” Several Democratic candidates, including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), have acknowledged the need for a conversation about reparations.

“We have to be honest that people in this country do not start from the same place or have access to the same opportunities,” Harris told The New York Times in February. “I’m serious about taking an approach that would change policies and structures and make real investments in Black communities.”

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has not issued his full support for reparations but contended that his policies would help Black communities, Vox reported. However, reparations have not had much support among voters. The initial order for reparations was given by General William Tecumseh Sherman in 1865; formerly enslaved people were to be given 40 acres of land per family. The order was reversed that same year by President Andrew Johnson, CBS reported.

Although the idea of reparations has not gained much political support, it has had consistent majority support from Black Americans. In 2014, a YouGov online survey found that six in 10 Black Americans believed the government should provide cash payments, education, and job training programs to the descendants of enslaved people. A 2016 Marist poll showed 58 percent of Black people supported reparations for the descendants of enslaved people.

Booker’s announcement of the bill was met by fierce opposition by people on Twitter. Some accused the senator of attempting to buy votes, while others argued they did not want their tax money to pay for reparations.

The issue may likely see a resurgence in the upcoming presidential election, Dr. Frank Newport wrote for Gallup on March 1. Newport, who could not be reached for comment, noted that the Black vote could be a critical factor in the Democratic presidential primaries and in the general election.

“Whatever the approach, the ways in which candidates discuss race in America today may help determine the eventual party nominees — and the outcome of the November 2020 general election,” Newport wrote.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.