(USA Features) Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are demanding that Democratic leaders schedule a vote on slavery reparations this month to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre, The Hill reported Tuesday.
The call comes after several caucus members visited Tulsa at the end of May, to join with President Joe Biden at the site of the 1921 massacre in the Greenwood section of the city, which was known at the time as Black Wall Street because of the wealth of the neighborhood’s mostly black residents.
The lawmakers returned from their visit with a renewed sense of urgency, the outlet reported.
“For those of us who went to Tulsa, it became even more apparent to us how important it is to pass H.R. 40 and to do so certainly before we leave for the August recess,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, D. Ga., in citing the House bill number.
Johnson said that the families and descendants of the families affected by the massacre never received compensation for their losses, including from their own insurance companies.
“We came away united with the strong feeling that now is the time to do [it],” he said. “And so we will now address leadership with this newfound sense of energy and urgency.”
Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who once chaired the caucus and who also went to Tulsa, made similar observations. While in the city, she reportedly met with lawmakers, descendants of families who lost their lives, and three actual survivors of the incident.
“Tulsa is ground zero, I believe, in terms of raising the level of awareness, and the whys, and the importance of reparations and getting H.R. 40 passed,” she said.
“We’re pushing hard. I don’t know of a date yet, but … I’m encouraging and urging and we’re hoping that this is seen as a priority and will be brought to the floor.”
Republicans have vehemently opposed H.R. 40, which was sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. It has 189 co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats and most of whom are extremely liberal, The Hill added.
Lee says she’s been in touch with Democratic leaders and believes the measure will be brought to the floor soon.
“We’re still working with everyone, all the parties who have to make decisions, for a vote in June,” she said.
“The time spent by the president in Tulsa regarding Greenwood was a very moving experience for all of us. And I couldn’t come away more positive about how we can try to find a good way of compromise to move a bill dealing with repair, and a study — that it’s not offensive to anyone to move it forward,” she added.
The Biden administration has been noncommittal as to whether the president would sign a reparations bill, if one were to even reach his desk. Shortly after taking office, President Biden agreed to the formation of a committee to study the issue, but that panel has yet to report back to him.
Critics of the measure say it would only further divide an already deeply divided country. They also say that reparations would be inherently unfair to a majority of Americans whose relatives neither owned slaves nor were slaves.