Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, opposed reparations for slavery, likening it to "wealth redistribution" and "socialism" while calling for Black Americans to view themselves as a people with a proud history instead of as oppressed victims.
Owens, whose great-great-grandfather was a slave, condemned slavery as an "evil practice," but said that "reparations is not the way to right our country's wrongs" during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.
The hearing involved discussion of a bill that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, reintroduced, calling for an exploratory committee to study and develop proposals for reparations, generally defined as compensation for victims of racial injustice.
"It is impractical and a non-starter for the United States to pay reparations," Owens said Wednesday. "It is also unfair and heartless to give Black Americans the hope that this is a reality. The reality is that Black American history is not one of a hapless, hopeless race oppressed by a more powerful white race. It is instead a history of millions of middle- and wealthy-class Black Americans throughout the early 20th century achieving their American dream."
Owens went on to say that the concept of reparations is far from a new idea, saying it has been attempted over the past century, and "resulted in the misery and death" of more than a hundred million people.
"It's called redistribution of wealth, or socialism," he clarified.
Owens looked with pride to advancements Black Americans have achieved in his lifetime. He noted that when he entered the NFL in 1973 there were no Black quarterbacks, centers or middle linebackers, which were known at the time as "White, thinking man positions."
Now, he said, the U.S. has elected a Black president and a Black vice president.
"It's called progress," he said.
Owens concluded by stressing the importance of recognizing Black history.
"Once we lose our history we lose pride in our past, appreciation for our present, and a vision for our future," he said. "If we're sincere about repaying Black Americans for our loss, let's give us back our history."