by WorldTribune Staff, June 20, 2019
Former NFL player Burgess Owens said in congressional testimony on June 19 that he didn’t believe in reparations for slavery, but did believe in “restitution,” and that restitution should come from the Democratic Party for all the “misery” it has brought to his race.
Burgess was part of a panel of witnesses to testify during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing which debated H.R. 40, a bill introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, that would study how the U.S. would implement reparations to black Americans. New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
“I used to be a Democrat until I did my history and found out the misery that that party brought to my race,” Owens said.
“I do not believe in reparations,” he added. “Because what reparations does is, it points to a certain race, a certain color, and points them as evil and points the other race, my race, as one that has not only become racist, but also beggars.”
Owens continued: “I do believe in restitution. Let’s point to the party that was part of slavery, KKK, Jim Crow, that has killed over 40 percent of our black babies, 20 million of them.
“State of California, 75 percent of our black boys can’t pass a standard reading and writing test. A Democratic state. So yes, let’s pay restitution. How about a Democratic Party pay for all the misery brought to my race and those — after we learn our history — who decide to stay there, they should pay also.
“They are complicit. And every white American, Republican or Democrat, that feels guilty because of your white skin, you should need to pony up also. That way we can get past this reparation and recognize that this country has given us greatness.
“Look at this panel. Doesn’t matter how we think. Doesn’t matter our color. We have become successful in this country like no other because of this great opportunity to live the American dream. Let’s not steal that from our kids by telling them they can’t do it.”
Another black witness at the June 19 hearing, Quillette columnist Coleman Hughes, said he was against reparations, prompting boos from the audience.
Hughes argued reparations would “insult” black Americans by making them “victims against their consent,” and further divide the country.
“Racism is a bloody stain on this country’s history and I consider our failure to pay reparations directly to freed slaves after the civil war to be one of the greatest injustices ever perpetuated by the U.S. Government,” Hughes said.
He added, however: “Black people don’t need another apology. We need safer neighborhoods and better schools. We need a less punitive criminal justice system. We need affordable health care. And none of these things can be achieved through reparations for slavery.”
Some in the audience booed Hughes at this point.
“If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further, making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today,” Hughes said.
“We would insult black Americans by putting a price on the suffering of their ancestors, and we would turn the relationship between black Americans and white Americans from a coalition into a transaction, from a union between citizens, into a lawsuit between plaintiffs and defendants.”
Hughes pointed out that while he is a descendant of slaves who worked on Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, he was born into a privileged home in the suburbs and attended an Ivy League School. Reparations would give him resources, although he is not struggling financially, and withhold them from other black Americans “with the wrong ancestry” who might be poor.
“I understand that reparations are about what people are owed regardless of how well they are doing,” Hughes said.
“I understand that. But people who are owed for slavery are no longer here. And we’re not entitled to collect on their debts. Reparations, by definition, are only given to victims. So the moment you give me reparations, you’ve made me into a victim without my consent. Not just that, you’ve made one-third of black Americans who poll against reparations into victims without their consent.
“And black Americans have fought too long for the right to define themselves to be spoken for in such a condescending manner. The question is not what America owes me by virtue of my ancestry, the question is what all Americans owe each other by virtue of being citizens of the same nation.
“And the obligation of citizenship is not transactional. It’s not contingent on ancestry. It never expires, and it can’t be paid off. For all these reasons, bill H.R. 40 is a moral and political mistake.”