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The U.S. Tries to Right Its Historical Wrongs With Racial Poverty Discussion at the Capitol

Lawmakers examine the economic disparity between whites and minorities.

Photo Credit: Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth Committee Twitter Account

On Wednesday, January 20, 2022, the US House Select Committee on Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth held a hearing to discuss the gap in wealth between the caucasian majority and other ethnic groups in this country. The meeting lasted a little over an hour and a half and featured many interesting points and conflicting ideas. Though there were no decisions made or bills proposed, it was still a positive step for the United States in the process of righting its historical wrongs.

Here's a brief summary of what was said.

The discussion began with Majority Whip James Clyburn explaining the different programs that were introduced in the twentieth century that helped build the American middle class we know today. He highlighted motions passed such as the New Deal and the G.I. Bill, and how Black and Brown people were excluded from the economic growth that came from them. The congressman argued that this was a major cause of the economic disparity between whites and other races. Representative Clyburn then proceeded to make his case for the G.I. Bill Restoration Act. A bill that would give Black World War 2 vets and their families the benefits, which they were denied so long ago.

"This would be one step toward righting the wrong and addressing the wealth gap." The Majority Whip stated as he wrapped up his argument and yielded the floor.

Representative Bryan Steil, who was also present, had a different approach to the problem. He suggested that Congress should focus more on the country as a whole. When the country is doing better, everyone does better, including minorities. He took time to point out the growth non-white communities have seen over the past few years and credited the policies passed by the Trump administration with making such growth possible. In contrast, he cited the current administration and "Defund the Police" rhetoric as the cause for rising crime rates and inflation. Steil ended his time by expressing his support for school choice and more lax business laws, stating that both would be beneficial for communities of color.

After a brief video of two Black veterans describing instances where they were unjustly prevented from accessing military benefits, the Chairman allowed a few invited witnesses to explain their position on the issue. Witnesses Dr. Valerie Wilson, Dr. Darrick Hamilton, and Dr. Jamie R. Riley all made arguments for the government to give financial support to Black communities, highlighting the same historical trend of racial inequality that Representative Clyburn spoke of. Janet Murguía spoke on the plight of Latino immigrants in this country and pushed for an easier path to citizenship. Ian Rowe, another witness, advocated for social change in the Black community and school choice. He argued that family, religion, economics, and education (or F.R.E.E) would be the salvation of Black and Brown communities, not more government funds. The witnesses were then questioned by select members of the House on the arguments they presented and were given a chance to expound on the points that they had made. Though there were no debates during the hearing, the witnesses still managed to subtly make counterpoints to the other's position in small quips and comebacks during their questioning.

As the arguments wrapped up and the meeting came to an end, Chairman Jim Himes had this to say about the issue of race in the United States.

"The fact is that the country of which we are all so proud is burdened with the original sin of slavery and burdened with the ongoing tragedy that very few immigrant communities, as much as we define ourselves as a community of immigrants, are welcomed."


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