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Where the 2020 Democratic Candidates Stand on Reparations — Inside the 2020 Presidential Debate Around Reparations

With the 2020 presidential election entering full swing, one topic is emerging as a new litmus test for candidates: whether they support reparations, or the concept of providing restitution to descendants of American slaves, partially as a way to account for the current wealth gaps that exist as a direct result of slavery and systemic discrimination.

According to the New York Times, black families in America earn $57.30 for every $100 in income white families earn, and black families hold $5.04 in wealth for every $100 in white family wealth. In Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2014 piece for The Atlantic titled “The Case for Reparations,” he wrote, “Black families, regardless of income, are significantly less wealthy than white families. The Pew Research Center estimates that white households are worth roughly 20 times as much as black households, and that whereas only 15 percent of whites have zero or negative wealth, more than a third of blacks do. Effectively, the black family in America is working without a safety net. When financial calamity strikes—a medical emergency, divorce, job loss—the fall is precipitous.”

While the subject has not been popular among candidates in the past (both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton refrained from endorsing reparations), it’s become a common question asked of the 2020 prospects. And many (including Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard, and Beto O’Rourke) have voiced their support for a recent House bill from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee that would form a commission to “study the impact of slavery and continuing discrimination against African-Americans, resulting directly and indirectly from slavery to segregation to the desegregation process and the present day. The commission would also make recommendations concerning any form of apology and compensation to begin the long delayed process of atonement for slavery.”

Here, a summary of what many of the 2020 Democratic candidates have said about the issue so far:

Kamala Harris

Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Kamala Harris Attends Campaign Events In Las Vegas

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Over the past few months, Harris has voiced mixed opinions when it comes to reparations. While on the radio show “The Breakfast Club,” Harris told the host she was for some type of reparations and said, “We have got to recognize, back to that earlier point, people aren’t starting out on the same base in terms of their ability to succeed, and so we have got to recognize that and give people a lift up.”

Then, in an interview with the New York Times, she seemed to confirm her opinion and said, “I’m serious about taking an approach that would change policies and structures and make real investments in black communities.”

However, in a later interview with the Grio, Harris pointed to her own policy plan, the LIFT Act, which would provide a tax credit for families that make up to $100,000, when the subject of reparations came up. When the outlet pointed out that her policy wasn’t particularly for African Americans, Harris said, “If you look at the reality of who will benefit from certain policies, when you take into account that they’re not starting at the same place and they’re not starting on equal footing, it will directly benefit black children, black families, black homes-owners because the disparities are so significant.”

She continued, “I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to do something that’s only going to benefit black people. No, because whatever benefits that black family will benefit that community and society as a whole and the country.”

She also spoke with NPR about the possibility of funding mental health treatment as a form of reparations, saying she thinks the term reparations “means different things to different people, but what I mean by it is that we need to study the effects of generations of discrimination and institutional racism and determine what can be done, in terms of intervention, to correct course.”


Elizabeth Warren

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Back in February, the New York Times reported that Warren said she supports reparations, but in March, CNN reported she declined to say whether she specifically supported monetary compensation, saying she believes “it’s time for us to have the conversation.” She continued, “We need to address the fact that in this country, we built great fortunes and wealth on the backs of slaves.”

During a CNN town hall, Warren also said she supports the current bill in the House that would appoint a panel of experts to study racial justice in America and discuss the different ways the government could approach reparations. Warren told the Washington Post that the country must create “systemic, structural changes” in order to help black families, pointing to her own housing policy plan that would give help to people affected by “redlining,” which the Post defines as “the decades-long, systematic practice of discrimination in mortgage practices that has diminished the wealth of black Americans.” (However, it should be noted that most would say such a plan does not qualify as reparations.)

Warren is also the only 2020 candidate who has said that Native Americans should be part of the reparations conversation.


Julián Castro

Julian Castro, former Secretary, U.S. Housing and Urban...

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Castro has been adamant about his support for reparations, telling MSNBC, “I have long believed that this country should resolve its original sin of slavery and that one of the ways we should consider doing that is through reparations for people who are the descendants of slaves.” He said if he were president, he would establish a task force to establish how that could happen. Castro also told the Grio that he thinks reparations are necessary and told a crowd at this year’s South by Southwest Festival, “It’s interesting to me that when it comes to Medicare for All, healthcare, the response there has been, ‘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.’ And so, if the issue is compensating the descendants of slaves, I don’t think that the argument about writing a big check ought to be the argument that you make, if you’re making an argument that a big check needs to be written for a whole bunch of other stuff.”


Marianne Williamson

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Williamson is the only 2020 candidate to be both supportive of reparations and to offer up her own plan. According to CNN, she has proposed $100 billion in reparations for slavery, with $10 billion to be distributed every year over 10 years. She told the outlet, “I believe $100 billion given to a council to apply this money to economic projects and educational projects of renewal for that population is a debt to be paid.”

On her own website, Williamson outlines a $200 billion to $500 billion plan of reparations for slavery with the money being disbursed over 20 years. She writes, “An esteemed council of African-American leaders would determine the educational and economic projects to which the money would be given.”


Pete Buttigieg

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When asked in an interview with Esquire whether he supports reparations, Buttigieg said, “I’ve never seen a specific, workable proposal. But what I do think is convincing is the idea that we have to be intentional about addressing or reversing harms and inequities that didn’t just happen on their own. The cleanest way I can think of to do it are through policies. So we know in housing and criminal justice, to some extent in basic economic policies around wages and taxation, that some policy improvements that are also the right thing to do will have a disproportionate benefit to people of color. I think that’s one way that we can be intentional and make a difference on this. I’ve just not seen a cash transfer mechanism that’s been laid out that you can envision working that most people would think is fair.”


Cory Booker

Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Cory Booker Campaigns In Des Moines, Iowa

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In April, Booker introduced his own Senate bill, a companion to the one introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in the House, that would form a commission to study reparations proposals. According to Booker’s website, “The Commission will aim to study the impact of slavery and continuing discrimination against African-Americans and will make recommendations on reparation proposals for the descendants of slaves.”

Slate also reported that while Booker’s policy plan to create savings accounts for every child born in America, with children in families with lower incomes receiving additional money each year, is not reparations for black Americans, it “might be the closest thing that we can expect to see from a serious presidential contender going into 2020.”


Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Takes His Presidential Campaign Back To Iowa

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During the 2016 election cycle, Sanders refrained from supporting reparations and once called the idea “divisive.” At a recent CNN town hall, he asked what exactly is meant when people talk about reparations, saying, “What does that mean? … I’m not sure that anyone’s very clear. What I’ve just said is I think we must do everything we can to address the massive level of disparity that exists in this country.”

Sanders was also asked about the subject on The View, where he said, “I think that right now our job is to address the crises facing the American people in our communities, and I think there are better ways to do that than just writing out a check.”


Beto O’Rourke

Former U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke at the National...

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According to Bloomberg, O’Rourke has voiced his support for Jackson Lee’s House bill, saying, “Foundational to reparations is the word repair, foundational to repair is the truth. Until all Americans understand that civil rights [involves] the injustices that have been visited and continue to be visited on people, we will never get the change that we need to live up to the promise of this country. So absolutely I would sign that into law.”


Kirsten Gillibrand

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This April, Gillibrand told a group of black activists that she also supports the House bill, which would create a commission that would study reparations. She said, “This is a conversation that is long overdue. So I want to let you know where I stand. I firmly support Congresswoman Jackson Lee’s bill to create a commission to study reparations. As president, I would advocate to Congress to pass that bill, and I would sign that commission into law. This is the first step in acknowledging as a country that hundreds years of slavery and institutional racism has caused mass inequity and harm to black people.”


Amy Klobuchar

Democratic Presidential Candidate Amy Klobuchar Campaigns In Iowa

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In a March interview with NBC, Klobuchar responded to a question about reparations by saying, “I believe we have to invest in those communities that have been so hurt by racism. It doesn’t have to be a direct pay for each person but what we can do is invest in those communities, acknowledge what’s happened…”

Source: www.elle.com

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