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Note: The following is a response to an opinion piece from the Putney Friends Meeting religious society, "It's time to discuss reparations for past injustices," that ran in the Feb. 1 issue of the Reformer.

To the editor: Thank you for reaching out to me regarding the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, a bill which I am proud to cosponsor. We must have the courage to examine our nation's history and how it impacts our present in an honest and accurate way. I appreciate your commitment to speaking up about this issue.

An estimated 10 million people were enslaved in the United States between 1619 and 1865. The consequences of slavery and the long history of racial discrimination in our country are still evident today. White Americans are nearly twice as likely to own a home as Black Americans, and the wealth gap between Black and white households has only grown in recent decades. Black Americans are also incarcerated at five times the rate of white Americans. The recent death of Tyre Nichols is a painful reminder that violence against Black people is all too common.

H.R. 40 would establish a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. In examining the history of slavery and discrimination in the United States from 1619 to the present, the commission would seek to identify the role of the federal and state governments in supporting slavery; forms of discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants; and the lingering effects of slavery on living Black Americans and society.

This legislation will give us a foundation from which we can begin discussing reparations for Black Americans. True progress requires us to reflect honestly, both as individuals and as a society, on racism's enduring presence. Neither denial nor silence will move us forward. These conversations won't be easy, but they will be made easier if we all approach them from an informed place. For all these reasons, I cosponsored H.R. 40, and will vote for it should it come before the House of Representatives.

I am so proud to be representing Vermonters in Congress. Thank you all for being engaged citizens.

Becca Balint

Montpelier, Feb. 24