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MD Clergyman Addresses Congress on Reparations

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019   

BALTIMORE – A member of the Maryland faith community is to appear before Congress today.

The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, the Episcopal bishop of Maryland, will testify at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the issue of reparations for slavery in the United States.

The topic of reparations comes to Capitol Hill for the first time in more than a decade, signaling the proposal's growing acceptance as a possible policy. Sutton said reparations will help the soul of America and planned to speak to the moral problems around the legacy of slavery.

"Race relations have been broken for a long time, because African-Americans were brought over as slaves, and they were enslaved for profit," he said. "And that means a broken system, a broken country and broken relationships – and there have never been amends to heal that brokenness."

House Resolution 40, which has 57 co-sponsors, would establish a commission to consider a national apology and proposal for appropriate remedies for the impact of slavery, and the racial and economic discrimination that evolved from it over almost 250 years.

The witness list for today's hearing also includes actor Danny Glover, author Ta-Nehisi Coates, documentary filmmaker Katrina Browne and Loyola Law School professor Eric Miller.

The subcommittee hearing coincides with Juneteenth, the U.S. holiday commemorating the date in 1865 when slavery was abolished in Texas, as well as the broader U.S. emancipation of slaves. Sutton said the idea of reparations has been misunderstood as white Americans writing a check to compensate African-Americans.

"What can this generation do to repair the mess that previous generations caused? The large numbers of African-American descendants of slaves are mired in poverty, few job opportunities, substandard housing," he said. "When we think of reparations, we think of funding some initiatives to help correct that."

Last month, Sutton wrote a pastoral letter to the Maryland Episcopal Diocese on the subject of reparations. It was affirmed unanimously by a resolution at the denomination's annual convention.

The text of HR 40 is online at congress.gov.


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