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Congresswoman Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) supports the formation of the Commission to Engage African Americans on Climate Change.
“Climate change is no longer an issue considered relevant solely by the environmental community. Across the country, African Americans are recognizing the urgency of encompassing environmental issues in our global fight for parity and comprehensive energy legislation,” said Chairwoman Kilpatrick. “Members of the Congressional Black Caucus applaud the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies for their acute awareness and timely decision to assemble a commission to promote climate issues in the African American community. As Americans face exorbitant prices at the gasoline pumps and home heating costs reach record heights, it is vital that we engage and educate our constituents and work to preserve the environment for future generations.”
The House on Tuesday issued an unprecedented apology to black Americans for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow segregation laws.
“Today represents a milestone in our nation’s efforts to remedy the ills of our past,” said Kilpatrick.
The resolution, passed by voice vote, was the work of Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen, the only white lawmaker to represent a majority black district. Cohen faces a formidable black challenger in a primary face-off next week.
Congress has issued apologies before—to Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II and to native Hawaiians for the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893. In 2005, the Senate apologized for failing to pass anti-lynching laws.
Five states have issued apologies for slavery, but past proposals in Congress have stalled, partly over concerns that an apology would lead to demands for reparations—payment for damages.
The Cohen resolution does not mention reparations. It does commit the House to rectifying “the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow.”
It says that Africans forced into slavery “were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage” and that black Americans today continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow laws that fostered discrimination and segregation.
The House “apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow.”
“Slavery and Jim Crow are stains upon what is the greatest nation on the face of the earth,” Cohen said. Part of forming a more perfect union, he said, “is such a resolution as we have before us today where we face up to our mistakes and apologize as anyone should apologize for things that were done in the past that were wrong.”