Exploring reparations for Black Americans is ‘necessary,’ says NAACP president

CEO and President of the NAACP Derrick Johnson told CNBC that his organization supports legislation reintroduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) to create a formal commission to explore reparation options for Black Americans. 

“This is the initiating process that members of Congress, particularly members of the Congressional Black Caucus, have been pushing for since the bill was initiated by John Conyers in the 70s,” said Johnson during a Monday evening interview on “The News with Shepard Smith.” “At the NAACP we supported that effort then, we continue to support the effort, it’s something that’s needed and necessary in order for many many individuals who have been harmed as a result of strict structural barriers to be made whole.” 

H.R.40 has 147 Democratic co-sponsors in the House, and was originally introduced in January 2019. Republicans, however, have shown forceful opposition to the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in 2019 said it was not a good idea to impose reparations “for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible.”

Johnson told host Shepard Smith that Black Americans “have been injured” by the U.S. government, and that you didn’t need to go back to slavery to witness clear injustice against Black Americans by the U.S. government. 

“You can go back to public policy dealing with housing, go back to public policy dealing with education,” Johnson said. “Still today, the delivery of quality education is not afforded to all children, and has been a special emphasis on African Americans.”

Johnson added that he’d like the Biden administration to remove those barriers “put in place by public policy,” and that “being equal is fine, but being equitable is the measurement for us at this time.” 

One of President Biden’s first executive actions included an order to promote racial justice. He ordered the government to reallocate resources to “advanc[e] equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.”

The Biden administration also announced that it will revive the push to make Harriet Tubman the face of a new $20 bill, an effort that was held back during former President Donald Trump‘s term. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that it’s important that U.S. currency “reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that. So we’re exploring ways to speed up that effort.”

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