In Support of the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act (H.R 40/S. 1083)

Adopted at the 88th Annual Meeting in 2020

  • WHEREAS, Congress finds that four million Africans and their descendants were brought to this land and enslaved in the American colonies beginning in 1619, and slavery was an institution that was statutorily upheld by the federal government of the United States upon its founding with the adoption of the Constitution of the United States of America in 1789 until 1865; and

    WHEREAS, the passage and ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865 abolished slavery, but it did not eradicate systemic racism and the institutional structures that perpetuate it; and

    WHEREAS, Black Americans have been subject to de jure and de facto discrimination from the end of the Civil War to the present day; and

    WHEREAS, despite reforms achieved during the Reconstruction Era of the 1860s and 1870s, state and local governments enacted Jim Crow laws to politically, economically, and socially disenfranchise Black Americans and maintain a system of white supremacy; and

    WHEREAS, programs and policies sponsored by federal, state, and local government, such as redlining, school segregation, and mass incarceration, have disadvantaged Black Americans during the twentieth century of our nation's history; and

    WHEREAS, despite further progress and the fragile political and legal gains achieved during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the Black community has still not yet been able to realize the freedoms, justice, and rights they are promised by the Constitution of the United States of America; and

    WHEREAS, Black Americans today still contend with and suffer from resulting racial disparities in outcomes related to wealth, income, employment, education, housing, health, criminal justice, and environmental justice; and

    WHEREAS, according to the Brookings Institution, Black household wealth ($17,150) is only one tenth of the average net worth of a white family ($171,000) in the United States, and this disparaging wealth gap may be worsened by the disparate economic impacts on the Black community resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and downturn; and

    WHEREAS, generations of Black Americans have had limited economic opportunity to build the intergenerational wealth that results from cradle-to-career pathways, homeownership, business ownership, and access to capital and banking products; and

    WHEREAS, racial disparities within our criminal justice system show that Black Americans have been disproportionately subject to mass incarceration and discriminatory policing practices; and

    WHEREAS, as recent tragedies have reminded us, Black Americans are three times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than their white counterparts; and

    WHEREAS, Mayors see these disparities our cities and recognize the urgent need for breakthrough change that disrupts systemic racism that inhibits the realization of a nation of liberty, prosperity, and justice for all; and

    WHEREAS, Mayors resolve to do better for our Black residents by promoting equal rights and greater equity and opportunity through the implementation of policy reforms at the local level as well as through our advocacy for action at the federal level; and

    WHEREAS, in recent weeks, demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest police brutality, advocate for racial equality, and proclaim Black Lives Matter, expressing that the status quo is unacceptable and underscoring the importance of the moment; and

    WHEREAS, the late former U.S. Representative John Conyers of Michigan introduced the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act (H.R. 40) repeatedly throughout his service in multiple sessions of Congress, seeking to advance this legislation to establish a commission to study and develop reparation proposals; and

    WHEREAS, during the 116th Congress, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee introduced H.R. 40 in the U.S. House of Representatives, while U.S. Senator Cory Booker introduced the companion measure (S. 1083) in the U.S. Senate; and

    WHEREAS, this Commission would "study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans," according to the legislation; and

    WHEREAS, its Members will examine the role of the federal and state governments in supporting the institution of slavery as well as other public and private forms of discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants who were deemed United States citizens through present day; and

    WHEREAS, this Commission would develop a report and provide recommendations to the U.S. Congress outlining appropriate remedies, including any reparations or special measures, in

    compliance with international standards, protocols, laws, and findings regarding the remedy for wrongs and injuries caused by the State; and

    WHEREAS, Members would perform the critical task of examining current federal laws and policies that "continue to disproportionately and negatively affect African-Americans as a group" and determine how those policies and laws can be eliminated or reformed to ensure those injuries reversed; and

    WHEREAS, these recommendations can offer critical insight to facilitate any future public, private, or collective action necessary to confront the nation's original sin and address injuries resulting from centuries of racism; and

    WHEREAS, the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties previously held a historic hearing entitled "H.R. 40 and the Path to Restorative Justice" focused on the legislation in July 2019; and

    WHEREAS, during his testimony for this hearing, Ta-Nehisi Coates reiterated that "Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole," repeating the introduction to his Atlantic essay that called attention to H.R. 40 in 2014; and

    WHEREAS, the recent mass demonstrations calling for racial justice should serve as a signal to federal lawmakers that significant action to promote reconciliation and transformation is not only necessary, but long overdue; and

    WHEREAS, this legislative proposal would be a concrete first step in our larger reckoning with our history as a nation.

    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the United States Conference of Mayors supports the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the nation's mayors thank U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee,
    U.S. Senator Cory Booker, and their co-sponsors for their leadership introducing this bicameral legislation; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the United States Conference of Mayors recommends the establishment of the federal commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery as well as subsequent de jure and de facto discrimination against Black Americans through present day; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the nation's mayors urge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to act on this legislation during the 116th Congress, recognizing slavery as our original sin, while the public calls on each of us, as elected leaders, to legitimately address centuries of racial injustice and inequities in America.

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