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Rep. Cori Bush introduces bill on reparations for Black Americans

Representative Cori Bush speaks during a press conference held by Just Majority on May 8, 2023 in St Louis, Missouri.
Dilip Vishwanat
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Getty Images for Just Majority
Representative Cori Bush speaks during a press conference held by Just Majority on May 8, 2023 in St Louis, Missouri.

Missouri Democratic Rep. Cori Bush has introduced new legislation calling for $14 trillion in reparations for Black Americans, in an effort to see the federal government atone for the practice of chattel slavery and hundreds of years of racist policies that followed.

"The United States has a moral and legal obligation to provide reparations for the enslavement of Africans and its lasting harm on the lives of millions of Black people," Bush said in a Wednesday news conference attended by Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., as well as other stakeholders.

"America must provide reparations if we desire a prosperous future for all," Bush said.

Her resolution is the latest in a long line of congressional efforts by Democrats to compensate Black Americans for centuries of racial inequity. Similar language about reparations has been introduced in every legislative session since 1989.

"We know that we continue to live under slavery's vestiges. We know how slavery has perpetuated Jim Crow. We know how slavery's impacts live on today," Bush said, citing the racial wealth gap, voter suppression, infant mortality rates and other negative health outcomes for Black people.

"It's unjust and it wouldn't happen in a just and fair and equitable society," she said. "Those are not the natural consequences of human society."

"They are directly caused by our federal government's role in the enslavement and exploitation of Africans and Black people throughout our history."

While the conversation around reparations has picked up traction in recent years, with about a dozen cities and the state of California considering reparation programs, the concept remains broadly unpopular with Americans.

About three-quarters or more of white adults oppose reparations, and so do a majority of Latinos and Asian Americans.

Black Americans overwhelmingly support the proposal, and young people in general are more likely to support cash payments to the descendants of enslaved people than their older counterparts.

But more than 90 percent of Republicans say they oppose it, while Democrats are split nearly 50/50 on whether descendants should receive compensation.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.
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