Commission examining legacy of slavery, racism to seek more time

Commission examining legacy of slavery, racism to seek more time
(Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury) (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

A commission tasked with evaluating the lasting legacy of slavery, segregation and racial discrimination on Black Virginians will seek more time from the General Assembly to do its work after a year lost to the pandemic.

While the panel was set to expire on July 1, 2022, Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, and Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, said during a meeting Tuesday that they would be requesting more time from the General Assembly.

“When [HB1519] was put in place, it was to be a two-year commission to study slavery … Basically a year is gone,” Locke said. “So I will certainly be going back to the legislators and asking for additional time as well as resources to do this work.”

The next steps for the Commission to Study Slavery and Subsequent De Jure and De Facto Racial and Economic Discrimination Against African Americans will involve forming a subcommittee to put forth specific recommendations for state legislators, which Locke was selected to head.

“The bill calls for the examination across a broad range of areas,” said McQuinn, who carried the legislation creating the commission. “When I say that this undertaking will be of monumental proportions, I think that’s an understatement. … Not only will we be given this great insight, but this commonwealth and this country [will too], as to the participation of Virginia in this ungodly act, and the trails of oppression and repression and suppression that have occurred because of it.”

The panel of lawmakers, academics and others, which has a total budget of nearly $236,000, will evaluate the short-term and long-term impacts of slavery in Virginia and the state-sanctioned de jure and de facto socio-economic discrimination levied upon African Americans in the years following —  leading to the stark racial disparities in health care access, housing, education and generational wealth that remain today.

The commission’s second focus will be publishing findings and making legislative recommendations to the General Assembly.

“With this piece of legislation and the authority that’s been given to us, we can certainly put [the Commission] out there,” Locke said. “Whether people accept it or not is up to them, but I think we can take what we were able to find, put it in print, and make recommendations. Whether you receive it or not is totally up to that individual, but somebody has to do that work, and that’s what’s missing in the commonwealth. The work has not been done yet.”

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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