The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, met virtually Wednesday to discuss legislation that would establish a commission looking into reparations for black Americans.
First introduced in 1989 by the late Rep. John Conyers, H.R. 40 was reintroduced in January by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee with the support of 162 Democrats.
Republicans chose two black witnesses to speak against the bill, Salem radio host Larry Elder and former NFL legend Herschel Walker.
Elder used his five minutes to completely dismantle the arguments presented in the hearing and focused on how black people have historically survived and thrived despite difficult circumstances of racism, slavery, and Jim Crow.
“Black people have overcome to the point now that only 20 percent of black people are below the federally defined level of poverty—still too high—but in 1940 that number was 87 percent, and 20 years later that number had been reduced to 47 percent—a 40 point drop in 20 years. That is the greatest 20-year period of economic expansion for the history of black Americans,” Elder said. “And notably, that came before the Brown v Board of Education decision, that came before the Civil Rights bills of 1964, 1965. Despite all this racism, all this prejudice, black people still overcame.”
He also brought up former President Obama being elected and serving two terms, referencing a 2007 Gallup survey that asked Americans if they would oppose voting for a black person, a woman, a Mormon, or someone in their 70s for president, referring to the major Democratic and Republican candidates for president—Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, and John McCain.
The survey found 5 percent said they wouldn’t vote for a black person, Elder recalled, 11 percent wouldn’t vote for a female, 24 percent wouldn’t vote for a Mormon, and 42 were opposed to voting for a person as old as McCain would be upon entering office.
“Obama as a black person had a smaller barrier than these three white politicians,” the radio host pointed out. “So having this conversations right now when racism has never been a less significant problem in America is mind boggling.”
He also referenced a 1964 interview Martin Luther King Jr. did with the BBC in which he said he believed a black person could become president in about 40 years or less, which is roughly within the period of time Obama became president.
“When a black person becomes president that’s when we’ll know we’ve reached a point where people are being evaluated based on the content of their character to the extent that it is reasonable to expect,” he said, paraphrasing MLK Jr.
He closed by bringing up his father and the advice he gave Elder growing up:
“Hard work wins, you get out of life what you put into it, you cannot control the outcome but you are 100 percent in control of the effort, and before you complain, go to the nearest mirror and say to yourself ‘what could I have done to change the outcome?’”
His father also warned him about how the Democratic Party was always trying to give people “something for nothing,” but when that happens, “you almost always end up getting nothing for something.”
While Jackson Lee argued H.R. 40 would put the country “on the path to reparative justice,” Walker said he viewed the issue from a biblical perspective.
“We use black power to create white guilt. My approach is biblical: how can I ask my Heavenly Father to forgive me if I can’t forgive my brother?” asked the Heisman Trophy winner.
“America is the greatest country in the world for me, a melting pot of a lot of great races, a lot of great minds that have come together with different ideas to make Americans the greatest country on Earth. Many have died trying to get into America. No one is dying trying to get out,” he continued.
“Reparations, where does the money come from? Does it come from all the other races except the black taxpayers? Who is black? What percentage of black must you be to receive reparations? Do you go to 23andMe or a DNA test to determine the percentage of blackness? Some American ancestors just came to this country 80 years ago, their ancestors wasn’t even here during slavery. Some black immigrants weren’t here during slavery, nor their ancestors. Some states didn’t even have slavery.”
He also said he asked his mother, who’s in her mid-80s, her thoughts on the issue prior to the hearing.
“Her words: I do not believe in reparations. Who is the money gonna go to? Has anyone thought about paying the families who lost someone in the Civil War, who fought for their freedom?” Walker said, adding that she compared it to giving a man a fish vs. teaching him how to fish.
“Reparation is only feeding you for a day. It is removing a sign ‘for whites only’ and replacing it with the sign ‘no education here,’” he said.