Mitch McConnell just can’t stop getting owned this week.
Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, actor Danny Glover, among other advocates, shared their testimonies on H.R. 40, a resolution proposed by Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to create a commission to study and develop a proposal for reparations.
The hearing, much to Republicans’ joy, had been undermined by the most powerful person in the Senate just the day before. Asked about his opinion on reparations, Mitch McConnell all but shrugged when he told reporters that “none of us who are currently living are responsible” for slavery, and well, it was “something that happened 150 years ago.” Adding insult to injury, the hearing took place on Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of the emancipation of slaves in Texas more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
So, when Coates got the opportunity to share his testimony before the House committee, he chose to use his time to let McConnell have it, pinpointing various examples of how the effects and aftermath of slavery continued to disenfranchise, subjugate, and oppress black Americans just within McConnell’s own lifetime.
“For a century after the Civil War black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror, a campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell,” Coates said. “Coup d’etats and convict leasing. Vagrancy laws and debt peonage. Redlining and racist G.I. bills. Poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism.”
“We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox, but he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney. He was alive for the blinding of Isaac Woodard. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama, and a regime premised on electoral theft,” Coates continued.
He went on to say that McConnell, in his slam on reparations, rightfully cited the civil rights legislation, because McConnell was alive for the “harassment, jailing, and betrayal” of the civil rights leaders who fought for such protections.
“He was alive for the redlining for Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion dollars,” Coates said. “Victims of that plunder are alive today. I’m sure they would like a word with the Majority Leader.
Booker, who is leading the effort in the Senate, spoke passionately during his testimony to the committee, detailing how such injustice continues to negatively impact black Americans, calling the country’s failure to address reparations “the silence that persists.”
“This idea that it’s just about writing a check from one American to another falls far short of the importance of this conversation and what I believe we will truly talk about,” Booker said.
“I say that I am brokenhearted and angry right now. Decades of living in a community where you see how deeply unfair this nation is still to so many people who struggle,” Booker continued. “Who work hard, who do everything right, but still find themselves disproportionately with lead in their water, super funds in their neighborhood, schools that don’t fund their genius, healthcare disparities that still affect their body and their wellbeing.”