The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing today to discuss the moving forward of plans to create a special commission to study the paying of reparations to Black Americans for slavery. Of course, even the mere suggestion that the United States might finally make some kind of material amends for the centuries of terror, murder, torture, and degradation inflicted on slaves is anathema to Republicans and some of the more odious GOP representatives on the committee made that painfully clear.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), a man as dirt stupid as he is racist, introduced a doomed amendment that would make the Democratic Party pay for the costs of the commission since it’s the party that used to support slavery. As is always the case when this issue crops up as a GOP talking point, he conveniently ignored that the parties essentially switched, and most of the southern states that supported slavery now reliably vote Republican.
During the hearing, Gohmert said one of the “saddest things” he’s ever seen is when the sins of parents are visited on children, specifically citing occasions when a child has to suffer through the imprisonment of a parent. Making a leap of logic to make a rational person’s head spin, he compared this kind of tragedy to a scenario in which future Americans inherit a national debt enlarged by federal spending on reparations. This lie, that Republicans actually care about the debt, only crops up when a Democrat is in the White House. When they hold power, the GOP loves racking up the debt to hand out unneeded tax cuts to the wealthy.
Crucially, Gohmert doesn’t seem to care about the Black children living today who are still affected by the echoes of slavery. White Americans whose ancestors were slaveholders aren’t haunted by those sins, but Black Americans whose ancestors were slaves are haunted by the cruelties of those same slaveholders in the form of generational denial of wealth and weaponized state oppression that persists to this day.
“We don’t need to do more damage. We’re about $29 trillion on debt,” said Gohmert. “We don’t have the money to be paying reparations. So, if there is an award of reparations to people that were not slaves by people who had no slaves, then it will be grandchildren from now that will punished and have to pay that price.”
The reality, of course, is that America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world and if we can afford to give massive tax cuts to the super-rich every time the Republicans hold the government then we can certainly afford to pay reparations.
Gohmert said that historically the “Republican Party was against slavery” and that Democrats used to support slavery.
“So if we’re gonna force this on anybody it ought to be the one party that has done so much damage, and that’s why I would submit this amendment: If we’re gonna punish children for the sins that even their parents didn’t do, then this ought to be the way to do it,” Gohmert said.
After he concluded his harebrained and disingenuous little tirade, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) said that she had hoped there could be a “thoughtful discussion” of slavery and then explained the waves of violence and terror that has been directed at African Americans even after slavery was abolished.
“So one can see there has been an ongoing journey. I don’t imagine as those individuals were lynched that they were able to ask any questions about party affiliation, regional location, wealth, or otherwise. They were brutally lynched,” said Jackson Lee.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) also took issue with Gohmert’s asinine comments.
“The amendment in question says that the Democratic Party should be held responsible because it is the only relevant entity in existence today that supported the instruction of slavery. That’s absolutely false,” said Cohen. He went on to point out that the states that supported slavery were the southern states so if Gohmert really wants to follow his twisted logic to its natural conclusion it would be the southern states paying.