Ending Our Silence

Promoting H.R. 40 to Study Slavery and Redress Institutionalized Racism


  • Cathy McElderry Tennessee State University
  • V. Nikki Jones Spalding State University




reparations, H.R. 40, social justice, advocacy, institutionalized racism


The U.S. has never fully addressed the legacy of chattel slavery and institutionalized racism. H.R. 40 – Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals/Processes for African Americans Act presents an opportunity to engage in a national discourse on the topic of federal reparations for the injustices of slavery and the present-day impact. The intent of the bill is to establish a commission to examine remedies for slavery and institutionalized discrimination. Enacting this bill is an important step in acknowledging the fundamental injustices of slavery. Social work, as a profession, has yet to acknowledge a position on this important issue. The historical context of reparations and institutionalized discrimination are presented to initiate a dialogue and call to action among social workers. Social workers are in a unique position to play an integral role in addressing the issues challenging passage of H.R. 40. The advocacy expertise of social workers situates them to support reparations as a policy priority that aligns with the cardinal values of the profession. Through capacity-building, the social work profession can dispel the myths and fears associated with reparations and move H.R. 40 forward.


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