‘Chill, chill, chill, chill!’ Cohen calms rowdy audience after witness destroys idea of reparations

Quillette writer Coleman Hughes got a rise out of the gathered crowd at Wednesday’s congressional hearing on potential slavery reparations when he called the proposal a “moral and political mistake.”

“Nothing I’m about to say is meant to minimize the horror and brutality of slavery and Jim Crow,” Hughes said as he started his testimony.

(Screenshot from CSPAN)

The opinion writer went on to say that he actually does believe in reparations, but that it is far too late now for such a move to mean anything significant.

He said he considers “our to pay reparations directly to freed slaves after the civil war to be one of the greatest injustices ever perpetrated by the US government.

Hughes continued, “Black people don’t need another apology. We need safer neighborhoods and better schools. We need a less punitive criminal justice system. We need affordable health care. And none of these things can be achieved through reparations for slavery.”

Hughes went on to talk about the political divisions in America and he revealed that he was told to not testify at the hearing by many close to him.

“Nearly everyone close to me told me not to testify today,” he said. “They told me that even though I have only ever voted for Democrats, I would be perceived as Republican and therefore hated by half the country. Others told me that by distancing myself from Republicans, I would end up angering the other half of the country. And the sad truth is that they were both right. That’s how suspicious we have become. Of one another. That’s how divided we are.”

Hughes went on to say that reparations turn today’s black Americans into “victims.”

“Reparations by definition are only given to victims, so the moment you give me reparations, you’ve made me into a victim without my consent. Not just that, you’ve made 1/3 of black Americans who poll against reparations into victims without their consent, and black Americans have fought too long for the right to define themselves to be spoken for in such a condescending manner,” he said.

Hughes continued and earned audible boos from the audience.

“The question is not what America owes me by virtue of my ancestry, the question is what all Americans owe each other by virtue of being citizens of the same nation,” he said. “And the obligation of citizenship is not transactional. It’s not contingent on ancestry. It never expires, and it can’t be paid off. For all these reasons, bill HR 40 is a moral and political mistake.”

As Hughes earned a reaction from the audience, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), who is the chairman of the subcommittee that hosted the hearing, banged his gavel and told the audience, “chill, chill, chill, chill!”

“He was presumptive, but he still has a right to speak,” Cohen said after the room quieted.

After Hughes was finished speaking, a man could be heard in the background complaining as he was leaving the hearing.

“Every witness, everybody here should be treated with respect,” Cohen reminded the audience.


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