DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE — June 2021
Reparations Discussions in the House of Representatives
and in the PC(USA)
By Rhashell D. Hunter
The heightened awareness by many of systemic racism in the U.S., and the killings of numerous African Americans, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, have ignited movement on legislation for reparations to African Americans in the House of Representatives. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas, is the primary sponsor of H.R. 40, “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African American Act.” If passed, a committee would be formed to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans.
According to a summary of the bill, H.R. 40 would “examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.” That includes determining the role of federal and state governments in slavery, current forms of discrimination and the “lingering negative effects of slavery” on Black people. Some lawmakers believe that a reparations program would begin to address the wealth gap between whites and African Americans.
The 216th General Assembly (2004) approved recommendations from the Task Force to Study Reparations. One of the primary recommendations approved by the assembly began the process for inclusion of the Confession of Belhar, which is now part of the Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The assembly also encouraged “Presbyterians to create opportunities to tell and hear stories remembering the past and celebrating examples of repair, restoration, reconciliation, and renewal.
Some mid-councils and PC(USA) congregations are engaging in the work of repair and restoration, becoming Matthew 25 churches, and working to end systemic racism in society and in the PC(USA).