Washington, DC – Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) announced the introduction of the Confronting and Correcting Historical Injustices Act (H.R. 1196), a bill that would establish a commission to recognize and remedy the discrimination suffered by individuals and groups at the hands of the federal government.
“Now more than ever, we need to come together as a nation to dismantle the systems that were built to disadvantage people of color and other marginalized groups. To do that, we must confront and correct the injustices the federal government has perpetrated that were based on bias, discrimination, and hate,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “I can think of no better way to celebrate Black History Month than publicly acknowledging those injustices and setting them right. Only by addressing the past can we begin healing the stark divides that continue to exist in our country. I am grateful to lead this effort with a civil rights champion like Congresswoman Lee.”
“For too long, the federal government has played a central role in creating unjust policies across the United States, from redlining and mortgage discrimination to the systemic racism in our public health system that persists today,” said Congresswoman Lee. “It’s past time that we recognize the legacy of racial inequality in our institutions and call on the federal government to address these historical injustices. The Confronting and Correcting Historical Injustices Act is a critical step in demanding accountability and action from the federal government in order to move forward. I thank Congressman DeSaulnier for his leadership on this issue.”
One example that inspired this legislation is the case of the Port Chicago 50. On July 17, 1944 at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in Congressman DeSaulnier’ s hometown of Concord, California, 435 African American munitions sailors, who were not properly trained or supported by the Navy, were killed or injured when a cargo vessel exploded as they were loading munitions. When 50 of these men refused to return to the unsafe working conditions that killed their fellow sailors without additional supports or training, they were discriminately charged and convicted of mutiny. Without a process like the one the bill creates in place, the families of the Port Chicago 50 have been unable to have their loved ones exonerated.
“Wow! I’m so grateful to Congressman DeSaulnier and Congresswoman Lee for this bill to establish a Commission for Review and Correction of Historical Injustices. It has been long overdue. There has been a painful legacy of injustices in this country and I am hopeful it will help in the exoneration of the Port Chicago 50 who were found guilty of mutiny and severely sentenced even though no mutinous acts occurred. The Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial would like their names to be cleared and the convictions removed,” said Rev. Diana McDaniel of the Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial.
The bill would create the Commission for Review and Correction of Historical Injustices, an independent commission responsible for reviewing and investigating federal cases in which individuals and groups have been unjustly discriminated against by federal agencies or entities. Cases eligible for consideration experienced discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation, and where the original act of discrimination led to a charge, conviction, discharge, or dismissal. The Commission would also be responsible for recommending legislative or executive action to adequately make whole those who experienced discrimination.