WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Joe Biden supports a study on whether descendants of enslaved people in the United States should receive reparations, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday, as the issue was being debated on Capitol Hill. Psaki told reporters that Biden “continues to demonstrate his commitment to take comprehensive action to address the systemic racism that persists today.”
Reparations have been used around the world to compensate victims of war, rape, terror and a host of other historical injustices.
But the United States has never made much headway in discussions of whether or how to compensate African Americans for more than 200 years of slavery and help make up for racial inequality.
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HR-40, a bill to fund the study of “slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies” has been floated in Congress for more than 30 years, but never taken up for a full vote.
Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee reintroduced it in January and it was being debated by a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Biden told the Washington Post last year that “we must acknowledge that there can be no realization of the American dream without grappling with the original sin of slavery, and the centuries-long campaign of violence, fear, and trauma wrought upon Black people in this country.”
But like nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates at the time, he did not embrace the idea of specific payments to slavery’s descendants, instead promising “major actions to address systemic racism” and further study.
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