McConnell dismissed slavery's devastating effects on America that continue to this day.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cited the election of President Barack Obama as one justification for why Congress should not bother considering reparations for slavery.
The House Judiciary Committee plans to hold a hearing on reparations later in the week, and McConnell was asked about the topic by reporters in a press conference on Tuesday.
"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 said. "We've tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We've elected an African-American president."
"I think we're always a work in progress in this country," McConnell continued, "but no one currently alive was responsible for that."
McConnell’s argument is nonsensical.
While President Obama was the first nonwhite president in American history, he is the also only nonwhite person to hold the office in the entire 230-year history of the office. His election did not magically undo or reverse years of racism that were present in America from before the country was founded.
The effects of slavery have not been wiped away just because some progress has been made on racial justice, such as the passage of civil rights legislation, the victory of the North in the Civil War, or the election of the nation’s first black president.
"Slavery endures in a legal system that allows black voter suppression and housing restrictions and education policies that continue to make life harder for blacks than whites in America," Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley wrote last year. "Slavery endures in an injustice system that continues to jail more black men than white people for the same crimes."
The harms of slavery didn’t end 150 years ago, as McConnell suggested. Racists in positions of power worked very hard for many generations after that to make sure black Americans never got the chance to fully recover.
McConnell's dismissiveness is even more disconcerting considering his own behavior.
In the 1990s, he was photographed in front of a large Confederate battle flag while meeting with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
And while he has supported the removal of Confederate statues, McConnell is a close ally of Trump, who has used the presidency to defend the pro-slavery Confederacy.
McConnell has opposed legislation that passed the House under Democrats that would address racial justice issues — like HR 1, which deals with voting access issues that have disproportionately affected nonwhites.
McConnell clearly wants to give the impression that he cares about people of color, but his words and actions show otherwise.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.