Voters confronted Rep. Jim Clyburn at a recent town hall meeting, where several concerned citizens wanted answers from the longtime congressman about what he’s doing to push through reparations. Some of the encounters were posted on Twitter.
Tyrone R. Polk-Davis, who describes himself as a “descendant of U.S. chattel slaves and freedmen,” asked the Democratic House member from South Carolina why the passage of H.R. 40 bill has been delayed. The bill was first introduced by Rep. John Conyers in 1989 and reintroduced by him every year until he retired in 2017. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee reintroduced the bill in 2019.
“We (citizens) put pressure on all our leaders to get H.R.40. We watched that whole judiciary process,” Polk-Davis said. “(Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi can bring (H.R. 40) to the floor anytime she wants … Now there is public sentiment and energy behind it. By 2050, Black American wealth is going to be at zero while other people’s wealth will go up…We just want a better quality of life for ourselves.”
Clyburn never fully addressed Polk-Davis’s questions and went on to the next audience question.
Wealth inequality expert and reparations scholar William Sandy Darity tweeted, “Great to see this type of challenge being posed to @WhipClyburn, but a word of caution: don’t treat passage of HR40 as a major victory. It won’t be…Ultimately, it will be a spare bone they toss us.” Darity is a Duke University professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics. He included a link to an article in which he and fellow reparationist A. Kirsten Mullen were interviewed for Actify Press.
The H.R. 40 bill establishes the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. It calls for examining slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the U.S. from 1619 to the present and recommends appropriate remedies. Among other requirements, it identifies the role of 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 living African Americans and society.
Clyburn’s unwillingness to answer reparations questions annoyed Nunya Bidness @OriginalNunyaB, who tweeted, “Thank you for uploading the video. #ADOS voices legitimate demands for #Reparations & our questions & concerns about the state of our affairs with clear facts. Instead of addressing them, @WhipClyburn moves onto “the next question.” Politricks. Clyburn needs to go.”
Among the concerned citizens at the town hall event was Cato-Amir, who describes himself as a son of the Gullah-Geechee. Cato-Amir posted a four-part video of his questions to Clyburn about the racial wealth gap. Cato-Amir also read out an anti-reparations quote that then-Sen. Joe Biden made in 1975.
In a newspaper interview, Biden said, “I do not buy the concept, popular in the ‘60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the Black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race.’ I don’t buy that.”
Biden said at the time, “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. And I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”
Cato-Amir asked Clyburn, “Joe Biden told us he would have our back. But since being in office he has signed an executive action for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; he has signed an executive action for LGBQ citizens; he has signed an executive action for Native Americans. But where is his executive action for Black Americans?”
Cato-Amir continued, “What about the biggest sin and original sin of this country –the brutal enslavement of my people, and after slavery, the race massacres, the violent discrimination that kept us in poverty, the land theft?
“…since slavery not much has changed. Joe Biden could easily do an executive action and bring back The Freedmen’s Bill,” Cato-Amir pointed out.
On March 3, 1865, Congress passed the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees Act to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical services, and land to displaced Southerners, including newly freed African Americans, according to the Senate website.
“Joe Biden, with a stroke of a pen, can start a commission to study reparations and implement them,” Cato-Amir said. He called on Clyburn to take action and asked the congressman why he hasn’t pushed Biden on reparations or an executive action for Black America.
Clyburn didn’t fully respond to the concerns of the citizens.
“Cato, you keep bringing Truth to Power Brother! Unfortunately @WhipClyburn is still trying to promote class-based policies as a ‘downpayment’ for Reparations. Only one thing left to do when politicians don’t listen to the will of the people…” The Cult of Personality tweeted @504_Slimm.
“He’s part of the system and part of the problem” @LarkLnd. tweeted.
Calling for voters to hold Clyburn accountable, @LaCreshiaBirts tweeted, “EXCELLENT JOB CATO!!!!!!!! Now all we need to do is follow-up and stay on Clyburn until this next election! He is put on notice. He needs to deliver or get pushed out”.
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