In a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) blamed the United States, specifically the Virginia General Assembly, for inventing slavery.
"The United States didn't inherit slavery from anybody. We created it," Kaine said. "It got created by the Virginia General Assembly and the legislatures of other states." He added that the country needs to do "much more" to "dismantle the structures of racism that our federal, state, and local governments erected and maintained over centuries."
Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016, spoke in support of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. The bill would implement police reform on a national level by banning choke holds, requiring police officers to use body cameras, and mandating training on racial profiling. Kaine, along with Democratic colleagues Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.), introduced the bill last week amid widespread protests over racial injustice and calls to defund and abolish the police following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others.
Referencing the New York Times magazine's controversial 1619 Project, Kaine noted that the English brought the first slaves to Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619, and then began implementing laws enforcing slavery in the colonies. He cited that year as the beginning of slavery.
Though some historians have pointed to inaccuracies in the 1619 Project's retelling of the American founding, writer Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for her work in May. Many public schools across the country have added the 1619 Project to their curricula.
Slavery is mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi, the oldest-known law code, which was written in approximately 1760 B.C.—over 3,300 years before slavery began in the United States. The existence of slavery is also well-documented in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.