First recognition in law of racial bias experienced by sailors
Washington, DC – On Wed., Dec. 11, 2019, a measure authored by Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) to honor and provide federal recognition of the Port Chicago 50 passed in the House of Representatives as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1790). If signed by the President, which is expected to happen this month, it would represent the first time that federal law recognizes the racial bias experienced by the 50 black sailors following the Port Chicago disaster on July 17, 1944 and the first official call from Congress that the Secretary of the Navy recommend remediation for the Port Chicago 50.
“Seventy-five years ago, the explosion at Port Chicago changed the course of the lives of many and set the stage for racial integration in the military. The brave men who fought back against their unfair, discriminatory treatment have never properly been recognized by the same government that betrayed them. This effort is an important first step toward righting this historical injustice and properly honoring the Port Chicago 50, and we will continue fighting to get the justice these brave service members deserve,” said DeSaulnier.
“The Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial are deeply gratified by Congressman DeSaulnier’s diligent work to include this language recognizing the bias against these African American sailors during World War II. It is extremely meaningful, on the 75th anniversary of this tragedy, that the Congress recognize the discrimination endured by the 256 Port Chicago sailors who were treated so unfairly by the Navy and the nation they served. Survivors of that tragic explosion have said they wanted everyone to know they did their best to help win the War,” said Rev. Diana McDaniel, President of The Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial.
Also included in the bill is a provision authored by DeSaulnier to improve financial transparency for America’s veterans who experience hardship when receiving both separation pay and disability pay. S. 1790 also takes a significant step by providing paid family leave for federal workers.
Despite these successes, DeSaulnier ultimately voted against the bill as it increases the defense budget by another $30 billion, bringing the total spending to a whopping $738 billion for this year alone with no requirement for an in-depth spending analysis or accountability.
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