Sheila Jackson LeeU.S. Representative
[D] Texas, United States

Length: 6 minutes, 21 seconds

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Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from California for participating in [Page: H618] leading us in this effort, along with the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON), the chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, particularly allowing for us to focus on revisiting The Color Line: Is Racism Still Alive? In listening to my colleagues, each have offered a different perspective; and I might, in the moments that I have, and I would like to be able to come back to the floor tomorrow to elaborate on the system of justice that concerns me greatly.

It is important to note that we have made progress, and I do believe that all of us who have come here have indicated that we know that slavery in its technical sense is over. The Jim Crowism of the early 1900s is over. Segregation of the deep South is claimed to be over.

I am reminded of 1901 when the last African American Congressperson was drawn out of this Congress. In fact, there was no African American who sat in the House of Representatives, similar to what we have in the other body, where no African American sits now in the United States Senate, and we now enter into the 21st century.

Although we can say to our colleagues and to all of America that there have been strides, we do have a knowledge of African American history. We can cite W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington. We can cite the work of George Washington Carver. We know that the street light was designed by an African American. We are quite familiar with some of the military generals, particularly General Davis. We are familiar, of course, with the men and women who fight in the United States military and the strides they have made.

We are familiar with the new millionaires and CEOs like Dick Parsons of AOL, Ken Chenault of American Express, Franklin Raines of Fannie Mae Corporation, and Stanley O'Neal of Merrill Lynch; and many people would cite that as a fact that we have made great progress. But I would just bring some attention to some of the cancerous sores that continue in this system that really should bear attention and ask the question: Is it because of color? Is it because of color that we go to inner city schools and find the inequities in the funding systems where our children are not learning? Is it because of color that we find that if we have what we call alternative school systems where you put children who have been designated as troublesome that you will find, go there and find a large percentage of those being minority children? Is it the issue of color where you are not finding male role models in the public school systems or a multitude of them as principals in the administration where we are teaching our children? When we look at our juvenile justice system, and we have looked at it across the country. When I first came to Congress, I traveled around the country to visit with various States about the juvenile justice system. That was at the end of the time or maybe at the beginning of the time when our mind-set was to lock up juveniles and throw away the key. It was interesting when we looked at those percentages, the high percentage of incarcerated juveniles were African American young people and in large part African American males.

In Harris County, Texas, we find a large percentage of those in courts who do not go home. When the judge gets to ruling, he would say, you go home with your parents. We are putting you on probation. We are giving you a warning, if you will. A large number of those are not African American young people. A large percentage of African American young people are sent to the Texas Youth Council.

We do have an inequitable system that points to the need to address the issue of color. I believe as we look at the incarcerated persons in our Nation we will find a higher number on death row who happen to be African Americans who did not get a high school education. Those are systemic problems that point to the issue: Is race an issue? As I applaud the success that we have had, applaud the number of lawyers and physicians who have graduated from our schools, I want to point to the fact that those numbers have gone down.

Lastly, I would say what we need to entertain, we need to have an overall, wide national discussion on this word called reparations so it is not stigmatized by the lack of understanding what it means. At the ending of slavery, it was announced that those who were freed would get 40 acres and a mule. Some people view that as a joke, but it was economic compensation for the 400 years of slavery. That was never fulfilled.

And although people will say I did not cause slavery, it was not me, I grant you that, but it is extremely important that we as a Nation not only express the apology to seek forgiveness for what happened to throngs of African Americans who are the ancestors of those who suffered the brutality of slavery, but it is necessary for us to have a fair, calm, generous discussion about what reparations really mean and how we can move this country forward as we did for the Japanese that were interned, as we did for those in the experiment.

[Time: 18:30] Let us do that, and I believe then we will answer the question whether racism is alive and as well we will heal this Nation and come together as a unified Nation as we should.