- A handful of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have embraced the prospect of reparations for descendants of slavery.
- The concept of reparations has been around since the Civil War.
- Stark differences have been drawn among the Democratic field on what reparations would look like.
Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have came out in support of reparations for descendants of slavery, starting a conversation about what that would look like both financially and culturally.
But each candidate who has weighed in on the issue has attacked it from a different angle, while others have outright declined to support such a proposal.
The idea of reparations for descendants of slavery is not a new one. Since the Civil War, the prospect of providing compensation for slaves and their descendants has existed in various iterations, such as confiscating land from the Confederacy to give to slaves or simply issuing money.
What reparations boil down to is, how does the United States address the significant gaps between African-Americans and other demographics – which proponents say extend to the present day – from the brutal and inhumane slave trade in the US?
2020 Democrats are weighing in on reparations as a campaign issue
Here are what some of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who support some form of reparations have said so far.
- Kamala Harris: “We have to be honest that people in this country do not start from the same place or have access to the same opportunities,” she said in a statement to The New York Times. “I’m serious about taking an approach that would change policies and structures and make real investments in black communities.”
- Elizabeth Warren: “We must confront the dark history of slavery and government-sanctioned discrimination in this country that has had many consequences including undermining the ability of Black families to build wealth in America for generations,” Warren told Reuters. “Black families have had a much steeper hill to climb – and we need systemic, structural changes to address that.”
- Julian Castro: “I have long thought that this country would be better off if we did find a way to do that,” Castro said in an interview with The Root. “I don’t find the notion challenging. What I do find challenging is the best way to do that.”
- Cory Booker: “It would be a dramatic change in our country to have low-income people break out of generational poverty,” Booker told Vox about his “baby bonds” plan that would give low-income newborns a $US1,000 sum for investing. “We could rapidly bring security into those families’ lives, and that is really exciting to me.”
- Marianne Williamson: “We need a moral and spiritual awakening in the country,” Williamson told CNN. “Nothing short of that is adequate to really fundamentally change the patterns of our political dysfunction … I believe $US100 billion given to a council to apply this money to economic projects and educational projects of renewal for that population is simply a debt to be paid.”
Other candidates have declined to support such a policy but have instead backed other initatives they believe will address racial inequality gaps.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said during an appearance on ABC’s “The View” that he wants to emboldened low-income communities but stopped short of endorsing reparations.
“What we have got to do is pay attention to distressed communities: black communities, Latino communities, and white communities, and as president I pledge to do that,” he said. “I think that right now, our job is to address the crises facing the American people and our communities, and I think there are better ways to do that than just writing out a check.”
Sanders’ comments also created a bit of a spat between him and Castro.
“There’s a tremendous amount of disagreement on how we would do that, but let me say something about Senator Sanders’s response there. He was also asked this question in 2016,” Castro said. “What he said on ‘The View’ the other day, I think, he didn’t think the best way to address this was for the United States to write a check.”
“To my mind that may or may not be the best way to address it. However, it’s interesting to me that when it comes to ‘Medicare for all,’ health care, you know the response has we need to write a big check, that when it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been we need to write a big check,” he added. “So if the issue is compensation think the argue about writing a big check ought to be the argument you make if you’re making the argument that a big check needs to be written for a whole bunch of other stuff.”
Staffers for Sanders’ 2020 campaign responded by characterising Castro’s comments as “playing politics,” arguing that “no one’s got the magic vision.”
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