In a House of Representatives hearing in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, Ta-Nehisi Coates used his opening statement to respond to the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s remarks on slavery reparations.

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On the eve of Juneteenth, Senator McConnell responded to a question on slavery reparations citing the Civil War, Civil Rights legislation and the election of the first African-American President Barack Obama as a consolation for slavery reparations.

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” McConnell told reporters at Capitol Hill. The Between the World and Me author used part of his five-minute opening to address the Kentucky Senator’s statement.


“We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox,” Coates said referring to the Battle of Appomattox, Virginia where Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union. “But he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney. He was alive for the blinding of Issac Woodard. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama and a regime premised on electoral theft.”

The Juneteenth hearing took place to discuss HR-40, a House Bill introduced by Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee that would “establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery” which Coates described as “a dilemma of inheritance.”

HR-40 was introduced by Jackson-Lee in January and currently has 64 co-sponsors in the House including New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar and California Democrat Maxine Waters. No Republicans have yet signed on the bill which at best is likely to get shot down by the Republican majority in the Senate.