During a CNN town hall on Monday night, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) reiterated that she supports a congressional effort to study the effects of centuries of institutional racism on African Americans but did not commit to supporting financial payouts when asked about specific actions to make reparations. “We had centuries of slavery in this country. We had decades of Jim Crow. We had legalized discrimination and segregation. And then we had de facto discrimination and segregation,” said Harris. “And to believe or suggest that those years of … abuse and violence and crime did not have an impact is to overlook the facts of history.”
Harris is supporting the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act or HR 40. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) introduced the bill this year following in the footsteps of former Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who introduced it every year since 1989. The bill itself does not require reparations. It instead calls for comprehensive federal research into the nature and financial effect of African enslavement as well as the ills inflicted on black people during the Jim Crow era in order to adequately suggest remedies. Every year, the bill has stalled. (It’s too early to know if it will stall this year as well.)
Harris believes the legislation would be helpful in informing what steps to take next. CNN host Don Lemon followed up and asked the senator if she explicitly supported financial payouts.
“I support that we study them,” she said before noting she’s studied how racial trauma can take a physical toll.
“When you are talking about the years and years and years of trauma that were experienced because of slavery, because of Jim Crow and because of all that we have seen in terms of institutional and legal discrimination and racism, this is very real and it needs to be studied,” she said. “And we need to look at exactly how the response should be played out.”