This year, in this session of Congress (the 116th), one would naturally think that this will be the first year since 1989 that H.R. 40, the Slave Reparations Research Bill will not be introduced as legislation in the House of Representatives, since the father of the legislation, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, is no longer a member of Congress. One would be incorrect in that assumption.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas 18) has announced that she will take on that responsibility in the absence of Mr. Conyers (who has been replaced by newly elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who in November, 2018, became the first Palestinian American and the second of two American Muslim Americans to be elected to the House of Representatives. She beat out Conyers’ son and 3 other candidates, including a sitting Detroit city councilwoman).

Rep. Lee dutifully re-introduced H.R. 40 at the beginning of the  116th Congress, with 26 co-sponsors, including many members of the largest contingent of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)—55—in U.S. History.

H.R. 40 now reads, “To address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.”

Even during the newly elected Democrat Party majority, H.R. 40 will most likely still not get passed this session.

In honor, however, of the continuation of the tradition of re-introducing it, in California, on March 2, 2019, the Reparations United Front organization is sponsoring a youth debate around the question, Is reparations a Viable issue for African Americans in the Modern World? The entrants are to be from 15-30 years old, and those who qualify by sending in an entry form and an initial 600-word written argument can then participate in a verbal debate for trophies and monetary prizes: 1st prize is a trophy and $300.

The actual debate will be held at Los Angeles Southwest College, SSEC Building, Room 301 at noon on March 2nd. The date is part of the commemoration of the infamous Dred Scott case of March 6, 1857, whose majority opinion claimed that “there were no rights that Black men have in America that White men are bound to respect.”

That decision, made public before the Civil War, and based on the three-fifths clause still printed in the U.S. Constitution, meant that all Blacks, whether slaves, freedmen or land-owning free Blacks, were not and could not ever be citizens of the U.S. That decision ranks with the equally infamous Korematsu (1944) case that legally put Japanese Americans into concentration camps. The 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution (ratified in 1865) overturned both the three-fifths clause and the Dred Scott decision.

Let’s have our youth debate this issue and through it learn to push the fight for real equality forward. For further information, go to www.reparationsunitedfront.org. or call (310) 285-8772.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.