Black activists, politicians testify at reparations hearing

On Juneteenth, black civilians gather at Capitol Hill to push for reparations for the descendants of slaves.
7:28 | 06/19/19

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Transcript for Black activists, politicians testify at reparations hearing
On Capitol Hill the one of whether the United States government should pay formally compensate. Descendants of slaves and Jim Crow in this country give reparations to those descendants it was the first time in more than a decade a hearing on the topic was held on Capitol Hill. Here's a little bit of the debate. While emancipation. Dead bolts at the duel against the bandits of America. Jim Crow which the windows wide open. And that is the thing about senator McConnell is something. It was a 150 years ago. It was right now. This hearing is yet another important step in the long in heroic. Struggle of African Americans Q. Reparations. For the damage is inflicted. By his sleeve meant. HR forty calls for the establishment of a commission it does not call for checks. We trivial eyes reparations. By saying that his urges African. Americans. That want to be paid like say that I had broken hearted and angry right now. Decades of living in a community where you see how deeply unfair. This nation is still too so many people still. Many individuals to any communities have been disadvantage to their parents history a right after the sled or the color of their skin and economic steps to me fairness and including my own. How suffered decades due to mass incarceration. A manifestation. Of modern day slavery. We're gonna star power on the reparations fight there let's bring in now. Hi ABC's Matthew van from Capitol Hill who was covering the hearing today Matthew. Thanks for joining us OK give us a sense of what advocates for reparations are actually asking congress to do here. Bulls have been this hearing just wrapped up a couple of hours ago but what we did see today. Was momentum for a bill that Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas proposed which would expand. Though it looked into reparations and look at issues of slavery and the legacy of Jim Crow in this country. Com now at the moment that bill has about fifty co sponsors. And you know as well as I do that there's going to be a lot there's need to be a lot more momentum. On such a bill to even bring that to the full house floor for a vote. Amidst all the opponents and critics had already risen up against some. Far yet there's even been in pretty healthy debate within the Democratic Party and reparations and far from a consensus about how to move forward. So we'll see where that had that spring and now a different perspective on on this Hannah Michael joins us she's one of the Georgetown University students. Who was behind that campaign a little bit earlier this year to get. The campus there the students to pay more tuition decree. They reparations fund for those descendants of the 272. Slaves that helped bill Georgetown Hanna thanks for joining us. How important is it for you to see the US congress take actions. On reparations. I think it's very important and I think tank is absolutely necessary for CB institutional -- asked and institutional knowledge meant. And it to be a lot of corporations and thinkers and look to invest extra parents you what specifically declarations and look like how are you. Both for with restarted justices in the market reparations. One of witnesses today at the hearing and an African American. De picked by the Republicans to attend said that. Reparations would be quote an insult to black Americans by putting a price. On the sacrifice of slavery. Do you think it would be an insult me anyway. The re not. I thought to this topic is more us reparations or payment of the Jack it's not meant to you're. This numerous is saying that the amount got is devoted to operational where she AZ and you race listening after you eat. The horrors of slavery absolutely wash and there's no thought there's no fiscal amount ever correct. I'm but I just thinking of financial commitment is necessary each and anywhere sort of justice we're that's on top of reparations because our financial commitment. I really enable as actual work to be dining communities that would mean resource. And and Matthew this idea of a financial commitment as well as the symbolism. We're we're both sort of agreed upon really out of this hearing by advocates but there were some opponents who said both of those things but the symbolism of an apology and the financial. Component are necessary they are unreasonable. Here's a little bit of what senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had to say about that. My vehicle. Do feel. Original sound flavored by the president. No one. Responsible. Zero. I'll save for a first look good for your hero who. Matthew those comments I McConnell really intensified the debate today. Absolutely and adding on to those comments from McConnell today were senators Lindsey Graham and John Kennedy. Who say that it's nearly impossible. To allocating monetary reparations to the countless descendants. Of African Americans. Who are descendants of slaves so that that opponents and all the criticism Shirley is mounting. It has been around for quite some time now. Yeah and Hannah we heard today at this fascinating conversation at this hearing about. I'm the awkwardness some of the witnesses brought up the awkwardness in discomfort that white Americans feel when the topic of reparations come up. You had so many conversations with your white classmates about this topic I know we caught up earlier this year on campus what. What were those conversations like what did you learn in having conversations about reparations which are white peers. Mean aren't. Well I learned not. Everyone has the capacity to practice and that he never has the capacity to you. I am I Don not ability to practice entity in the context of iron from the scene activist and I was involved and I didn't recognize that one students where. There early in foreign and then to treat and to. That didn't extremely creative license to think about what reparations means and what it means in the context of their own snow he'll history. I think that's really. Where people need them most are asking does daily laugh I am connected to this history in his legacy regardless of whether or not I recognize and actually is illegal in for it so I think really allow people opportunities to heat and sun giving them the resources necessary and also on displaying different ways people can on the information they receive from those resources. I'm really isn't asked. Eaton Ford an insular and people. We have more information more facts more empathy I think could do all of us some good Hannah Michael from Georgetown University thank you so much and our thanks again to Matthews band for his reporting. From Capitol Hill.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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