Booker sponsors bill to research reparations for slavery in America

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Presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker is sponsoring a bill that could be the first step toward granting reparations for American slavery.

The Democratic senator’s bill is a version of a House bill to study the impact of slavery and continuing discrimination against African-Americans.

“When elected leaders stand up and they talk about real economic justice, it cannot be color blind or race blind,” Booker said. “The policies that got us here were very conscious of color and denying opportunities to African-Americans.”

The bill would establish a commission to study the history of slavery in America and the lingering negative effects of the institution. It would report to Congress on how to best educate the public and consider any form of compensation to the descendants of enslaved Africans.

“There is power in the persistent nature of racism and white supremacy in our country and we have to confront how that bias is baked into our system and most powerfully seen now in a broken criminal justice system. The old Jim Crow is now a new Jim Crow,” said Booker.

The idea of reparations has been gaining traction among Democrats running for president. Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke said he supports the idea. California Sen. Kamala Harris said that if she was elected president she would sign Booker's bill into law. She said that she would also increase the size of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Sen. Bernie Sanders supports the idea as well.

Booker said that if American society doesn’t take a harder look at the devastating effects of slavery, “We cannot guarantee…we will actually change the realities in communities like mine in Newark.”

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed a law that paid out $20,000 in reparations to each surviving Japanese-American who was held in U.S. internment camps during World War II.

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