(Washington, DC) – The US Congress should address systemic racism by bringing House Resolution (HR) 40 to a full vote once it reaches the floor, more than 100 civil rights, human rights, and civil society organizations and businesses said today. The federal bill would establish a commission to investigate the legacy of slavery and its ongoing harm, and come up with proposals to Congress for reparations.
The organizations mobilized under the new campaign “Why We Can’t Wait,” initiated by groups including the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC), Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA).
The campaign begins as both reparations and HR 40 have experienced a surge in support, amid the nationwide protests against systemic racism – by far the largest social movement in the US – and an increasing number of local reparations initiatives. A majority of Americans now support the creation of the HR 40 commission, according to a new poll from Democracy in Color and Civiqs released this week. According to the poll, support for HR 40 jumped 19 percentage points since last year, from 31 percent to 50 percent, and 56 percent of Americans who responded said that Congress is “doing too little” to address racial inequality.
HR 40 was originally introduced by the late Congressman John Conyers during every legislative session between 1989 and 2017, after which it was reintroduced by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in January 2019. It has garnered a record number of co-sponsors in the past year amid Americans’ growing concerns about racial justice. The late Congressman John Lewis was among its strongest and most consistent supporters.
“We can’t recover the lives lost to systemic anti-Blackness and heinous racial terror,” the letter to Congress reads. “We can’t undo the trauma that has wreaked havoc on Black communities and bodies. But what we can do is pass HR 40, and its Senate companion S 1083. It is what the moment requires.”
The letter to Congress and signatories are available here.