Take action: Support the study and development of reparations for slavery and systemic racism

The ongoing wounds of slavery and more than four centuries of entrenched racial oppression continues to impact every part of American society. Systemic disparities and injustices will endure unless proactive steps are taken to acknowledge and eliminate them. One way to address entrenched racial discrimination is through the study and development of reparations proposals.

Urge your elected officials to support the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.

Background

Systemic racial oppression in the American colonies began in 1619 when the first enslaved Africans were brought to the colony of Virginia. Black families were ripped apart, Black individuals were subjected to sexual and other forms of violence, and Black children were kept deliberately uneducated and illiterate. Some early Jewish Americans were among slave traders and owners.

Despite the abolishment of slavery in the U.S. in 1865, systemic oppression, violence, and racial discrimination against Black Americans continues today. Lynchings, Jim Crow laws, restricted access to the ballot box, a biased criminal justice system, and redlining are just some examples of how racial inequity has been sustained in America.

Examples of how inequality manifests today include:

Such injustices will endure unless proactive steps are taken to acknowledge and eliminate them. In the 117th Congress, the bicameral Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act (S. 40/H.R. 40) was introduced by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18). These bills would establish a commission to identify the U.S. government’s role in the institution of slavery, the discriminatory laws against formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants, and the lingering negative effects of slavery. The commission would also be tasked with recommending appropriate ways to educate the public and provide remedies.

Jewish Values

In the Talmud, we learn that all people are descended from a single person so that no person can say, “my ancestor is greater than yours.” (Sanhedrin 37a). Systemic racial oppression is a sin that violates the sacred tenet of equality between people. Our Jewish texts are also clear on the importance of restitution for wrongs committed. Maimonides linked the payment of damages to the concept of t’shuvah, noting that repentance must accompany the financial commitment (Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 1.1). Racial healing can only begin to be achieved when this systemic oppression is recognized and accounted for, when t’shuvah is carried out.

At the URJ December 2019 Biennial, the Reform Movement overwhelmingly adopted a Resolution on the Study and Development of Reparations for Slavery and Systemic Racism in the U.S. The resolution recognizes that, “As an institution striving to be antiracist, we seek to address the harms of those who came before us, and the injustices that continue to surround us, so that we do what we can to make our institutions, communities, and nation more just for future generations.”

Join our call by asking your members of Congress to cosponsor legislation to research and develop reparations for slavery and systemic racism.

For More Information:

You can email your elected officials through our form, or you can call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to speak directly with their offices.

For more information on this issue, visit the RAC’s racial justice page on our website or contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Josh Burg at 202-387-2800.

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