“There’s not much question that the wealth of this country, the power of this country was built in significant part, not exclusively, maybe not even majority of it, but a large portion of it was built on the backs of slaves,” Former President Barack Obama said in a recent interview.
In the interview, Obama added “what is also true,” is that after the formal end of slavery, the systematic oppression and discrimination of Black Americans’ continued under Jim Crow,” as a result of the nation not going through what he described as “a true reckoning.”
The 44th commander-in-chief said “white resistance” prevented him from moving forward with reparations plans during his presidency.
Stereotypes like “welfare queens,” and “the undeserving poor,” Obama said, made getting a reparations plan completed under his leadership a “nonstarter.”
“The talk of welfare queens and the talk of the undeserving poor and the backlash against affirmative action, all that made the prospect of actually proposing any kind of coherent, meaningful reparations program struck me as politically, not only a nonstarter but potentially counterproductive.”
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama reportedly stated “the best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed.”
In the interview, Obama acknowledged that segregation laws prevented Black families from being “able to build up wealth,” and resulted in them “not being able to compete,” adding that, “and that has generational effects.
Addressing opposition to reparations, Obama said it’s “understandable” why “working class white folks, middle class white folks,” and others who are struggling financially “wouldn’t be too thrilled with a massive program that is meant to deal with the past but isn’t speaking to their future.”
A hearing was recently held to review a reparations plan for Black Americans, beginning with a commissioned study that would take an in-depth look at the impacts of slavery. The reparations bill, H.R. 40, is being sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas who carried the torch for repayment after the late Rep. John Conyers retired in 2017.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden’s administration would “certainly support a study, but we’ll see what happens through the legislative process,” per a report by POLITICO.
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