Locals react to reparations hearings in Washington


CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – The subject of reparations returned to Capitol Hill today.

This time, it’s part of a growing discussion about what the country might owe the descendants of slaves in the United States.

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The reparations topic has come back to the spotlight recently.

Some may ask the simple question, what are reparations?

RICARDO MORRIS/CEO OF CHATTANOOGA FESTIVAL OF BLACK ARTS AND IDEAS-” The slaves, after they were freed, were promised forty acres and a mule which is what the bill is named for. We didn’t see any of that. The United States was giving away land to Europeans that were coming over for free from the mid-west to get it settled. But yet still, we didn’t have the right to vote. Nor did we get an opportunity to have that land or even money.”

To this day, African-American’s have been fighting for equality all around the country.

So why is reparations from slavery a topic that needs to be added to the list?

MARCUS ELLSWORTH/ACTIVIST- “There needs to be a talk about the fact that our community is still struggling from the repercussions of slavery, and Jim Crowe and all of things that keep us in poverty and keep us incarcerated. So yeah, we do need to talk about it. We need to have a conversation about what reparations really look like, how it can be effective and what it means for the long term.”

A hearing today of a House Judiciary subcommittee set out to examine legislation to study reparations.

Actor and activist Danny Glover and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates were among the witnesses who testified.

But closer to home, Chattanoogans at a local Juneteenth celebration have their own feelings about reparations.

GINNY MACKEY/CHATTANOOGA RESIDENT – “There is a complete community and people group who are not being heard and who feel like they are being neglected in some way.so I think it is something that I’m glad we’re talking about in the country and I think that us young people, like me like I’m ready to go home and do some homework and get ready to have a bigger voice in this topic.”

Reparations has been moving toward the mainstream, with several presidential candidates in favor of reviewing the idea.

Yet the concept remains far from being widely accepted.

The Senate Majority Leader seems to think that the election of Barak Obama should suffice.

SEN. MITCHELL MCCONNEL “We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil warm by passing a landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African American President. I think we’re always a work in progress in this country. But , no one currently alive was responsible for that.”

If reparations are made officials are guesstimating the price tag to be 6 trillion dollars.

Would young people be willing to pay for something they had nothing to do with?

GINNY MACKEY/CHATTANOOGA RESIDENT- “Six trillion, when you say that it sounds like a ton of money. But, we are talking about people and lives and a lot of hurt. So, I’m willing to contribute to a history and a voice that, I wasn’t even there. I think that we are representatives of our past and I think we spend more money on NFL football every year so why not?”