Former professional football player Herschel Walker told the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing on reparations for black Americans that white America should not be asked to pay for the sins of their forefathers because it is outside the teachings of Jesus.
Citing Ezekiel 18:20, Walker, who played for NFL teams such as the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, said Wednesday that white Americans should not have to pay for the sins of their ancestors because it goes against Scripture.
“The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them,” the scripture in Ezekiel says.
“If reparations is a fee or a correction for a terrible sin of slaveowners, government or others, but we punish a non-guilty party, does it not create division, a separation with different races? I feel it continues to let us know we’re still African American rather than just American. Reparations or atonement is outside the teaching of Jesus Christ,” Walker, a 1982 Heisman Trophy winner who started his professional football career with the USFL New Jersey Generals, owned by former President Donald Trump, said.
Newly elected Rep. Burgess Owens, R- Utah, also a former NFL player, said reparations for black Americans is “impractical and a nonstarter for the United States government to pay.”
“Forty years later, our nation has elected a black American as president and a black female as vice president. It’s called progress,” Owens said, pointing to former President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who was also a part of Wednesday’s hearing, first raised the issue of reparations in January 2019 when she introduced bill H.R. 40, called the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act.
The legislation "is intended to examine the institution of slavery in the [British] colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present," according to a press statement at the time.
When Jackson Lee introduced the bill in 2019, it had been nearly three decades after her late colleague, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, first introduced it in 1989 and every legislative session after that. The bill never reached the House floor for a vote to put it on a path to become law.
Last May, three days before the death of George Floyd on May 25, and just months after Conyers’ death in October 2019, Lee paid homage to Conyers’ efforts in an op-ed on the bill for the ACLU.
“Though many thought it a lost cause, he believed that a day would come when our nation would need to account for the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery,” she wrote.
She then explained how H.R. 40 is not just about money but a path toward restorative justice.
“Though critics have argued that the idea of reparations is unworkable politically or financially, their focus on money misses the point of the H.R. 40 commission’s mandate. The goal of these historical investigations is to bring American society to a new reckoning with how our past affects the current conditions of African Americans and to make America a better place by helping the truly disadvantaged,” she said.
“Consequently, the reparations movement does not focus on payments to individuals, but to remedies that can be created in as many forms necessary to equitably address the many kinds of injuries sustained from chattel slavery and its continuing vestiges. To merely focus on finance is an empty gesture and betrays a lack of understanding of the depth of the unaddressed moral issues that continue to haunt this nation.”
She also argued that without truth and reconciliation the nation will continue to struggle with “division, racial disparities and injustice.”
“By passing H.R. 40, Congress can start a movement toward the national reckoning we need to bridge racial divides. Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation — and the hope that one day, all Americans can walk together toward a more just future,” she wrote.
Walker argued that pursuing reparations to heal division will likely create even more division.
“My approach is biblical: how can I ask my Heavenly Father to forgive me if I can’t forgive my brother?” he said.
“I never want to put anyone’s religion down, but my religion teaches togetherness. Reparations teach separation. Slavery ended over 130 years ago, how can a father be asked [to allow] his son to spend prison time for a crime he committed? In the case we speak of research, we’re researching farther back in history — a history many are not taught or spoken about in school,” he added.
“America is the greatest country in the world for me, a melting pot of a lot of great races, a lot of great minds that have come together with different ideas to make America the greatest country on Earth. Many have died trying to get into America. No one is dying trying to get out,” he said.
He also asserted that it will be difficult to find the money for reparations and determine who should be compensated.
“Reparations, where does the money come from? Does it come from all the other races except the black taxpayers? Who is black? What percentage of black must you be to receive reparations? Do you go to 23andMe or a DNA test to determine the percentage of blackness? Some American ancestors just came to this country 80 years ago, their ancestors weren’t even here during slavery. Some black immigrants weren’t here during slavery, nor their ancestors. Some states didn’t even have slavery,” he said.
“Years later after slavery ended, Dr. King [in his] ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, said the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation was a great beacon of light, but hundreds of years later we’re still not free because of segregation and discrimination. Today, I call that reparations,” he added.