By Kaitlin Kennedy

April 7, 2022

Washington DC – Lawmakers on Tuesday danced around reparations in a House subcommittee hearing on the lasting impacts of enslavement and discrimination against Black Americans.

The US House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, part of the Financial Services Committee, held a hearing on Tuesday entitled An Enduring Legacy: The Role of Financial Institutions in the Horrors of Slavery and the Need for Atonement.

The hearing, chaired by Texas Rep. Al Green, summoned lawmakers, scholars, and activists to speak on US financial institutions’ culpability in the historic disenfranchisement of Black people in America.

Primary sponsor of HR 919, Green took the opportunity to tout the bill, which calls for a Cabinet-level Department of Reconciliation with a Secretary of Reconciliation who would report directly to the president.

n light of the historic magnitude of this harm, Black people and allies around the country are demanding the government do its part to repair the damage.

Maxine Waters, chair of the Financial Services Committee, argued that financial institutions be held accountable for their predatory practices now – without waiting for federal reparations legislation.

“Shouldn’t we not wait for reparations?” the California Democrat asked. “Shouldn’t there be a way that the banks and insurance companies move forward now?”

Dr. William Darity Jr., a Duke University professor of public policy, African and African American studies, economics, and business, said that while financial institutions are not off the hook, politicians should also remain focused on creating a national reparations program.

The minimum amount needed to close the racial wealth gap is $14 trillion, he said, adding that “only the federal government has the capacity” to meet that required sum.

“While all the actions [financial institutions] took were wholly immoral, they were actually legal under the conditions of law that existed in the United States of America,” he continued. “The ultimate degree of culpability has to be assigned to the federal government, and it’s the federal government that must ultimately pay the bill for reparations.”