Seattle (December 11, 2020) – Joining with Mayors from across the country, Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced her strong support for H.R. 40 and urged the House of Representatives to prioritize consideration of this important bill. H.R. 40 was first introduced in 1989 by late Congressman John Conyers as a bill to establish a commission to study and make recommendations for reparations for the institution of slavery and subsequent racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans. In July 2020, the US Conference of Mayors passed a resolution in support of H.R. 40.
“The tragedy of George Floyd’s murder reenergized the national demand for true justice for Black Americans. To truly bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice, we must acknowledge and address the insidious and systemic impacts of racism, from the time of slavery to today. Our history commands our great country to strive always for a more perfect union. To do this and to heal as a country, we must honestly examine and address the harm caused to the Black community through discriminatory policies and systems. We cannot change the past but we must act to ensure justice for future generations.
“I continue to believe that reparations are one important part of the answer to government-sanctioned discrimination against our Black community. Unfortunately, decades of discussion have not translated to concrete action or even consideration of H.R. 40. New voices have galvanized and coalesced to push forward on the urgent and unmet needs stemming from our nation’s original sin – slavery.
“Our country can no longer avert its eyes to the impact of systemic racism and pretend that we all have the same opportunities, share in the same benefits, or even begin from the same starting line. Our purposeful policies from slavery to Jim Crow laws to redlining to mass incarceration have undeniably denied our Black neighbors their rightful place in the American family and access to the American dream.
“Reparations is not new. It is deeply rooted in human nature and the American experience. Our legal systems are founded on the belief that wrongs should be righted, and those harmed are entitled to justice. It is also part of our region’s history. We grappled with the grave injustices suffered by our neighbors and business owners from the Japanese community who were interned during WWII, and local leaders and activists helped drive the successful fight for national reparations for the community. It’s past time that we do the same for Black Americans. The time is now, we can and must do more.
“I applaud the relentless work of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee as she has been unwavering in her support and leadership on this issue. Through her commitment, we have the opportunity to finally take action. Seattle is committed to supporting Congressional action to address one of the most pressing issues in our country’s history.”