Dr. Julianne Malveaux: Obama Freaked Out When I Asked Him About Reparations, Said ‘Turn Off The Microphone’

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Written by Dana Sanchez
Obama reparations
Dr. Julianne Malveaux speaks at the Colgate-Palmolive Continental Societies Leadership Forum, June 26, 2013 in Frisco, Texas. (Sharon Ellman/AP Images for Colgate-Palmolive)

While campaigning for the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama said he didn’t want to focus on reparations. The country’s challenges will not go away with reparations, he said in an NAACP questionnaire. They’ll be “an excuse for some to say ‘we’ve paid our debt’.”

It’s not clear whether Obama’s position has changed since then, but the American people have changed. Reparations are a major topic of debate leading to the 2020 elections. Obama would not get away as easily by avoiding the topic.

Obama said: “I fear that reparations would be an excuse for some to say ‘we’ve paid our debt’ and to avoid the much harder work of enforcing our anti-discrimination laws in employment and housing; the much harder work of making sure that our schools are not separate and unequal; the much harder work of providing job training programs and rehabilitating young men coming out of prison every year; and the much harder work of lifting 37 million Americans of all races out of poverty.

These challenges will not go away with reparations. So while I applaud and agree with the underlying sentiment of recognizing the continued legacy of slavery, I would prefer to focus on the issues that will directly address these problems — and building a consensus to do just that.”

What have you ever heard Michelle or Barack Obama say about reparations? Economist Boyce Watkins threw out the question during an interview with economist Julianne Malveaux on the Black Financial Channel.

Malveaux recalls interviewing Obama in 2004 when he was still State Sen. Obama. She asked him about reparations. “He totally freaked out,” Malveaux told Watkins. “I’ll never forget it.”

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 18: Boyce Watkins

Jamarlin talks with Dr. Boyce Watkins about the lopsided relationship between the Democratic Party and Black America. They discuss potential 2020 presidential candidates, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris, and whether corporations and interests connected to foreign countries have more influence than Black voters on policy and priorities.

Watkins urged his audience to question Obama’s views on reparations.

“The things Black people would have fallen for in 2008 are not the things they will fall for in 2019. That is what you call progress,” said Watkins, who is the founder and CEO of Watkins Media Group.

In addition to a Ph.D. in economics from MIT, Malveaux is an author, social and political commentator, and businesswoman who served for five years as the 15th president of Bennett College for Women. Cornel West described Malveaux as “the most iconoclastic public intellectual in the country”.

Here’s more on Malveaux’s reparations interview with Obama:

“I was wearing my journalist’s hat,” Malveaux said. “He was a hot ticket. I’ll never forget it. When I asked about reparations he totally went off. He jumped off the chair. He said, ‘Turn off the microphone, we’re not recording this’. He did not even want to be in the same sentence, in the same room with reparations. Nope to the nope to the nope. Next thing the handler is gathering up their stuff and I’m like, ‘Dude can we at least close the interview up so I can say bye?’ So we did.”

Watkins reminded his audience that Obama wouldn’t have got to the White House without the support of Black people.

“If you going to profit from Black people, you must be giving something back,” Watkins said. “The question becomes, what are they (Obamas) giving back? What are they adding? I see these movies they’re making. They are not making anything that’s uniquely rooted in the Black experience. I think they made a movie about some Ohio workers, a factory being bought by a Chinese billionaire, all this other shit. (Obama’s) power was rooted in Black people.”

Watkins said Malveaux’s testimony is “one of the most compelling examples of the problem of (Obama’s) presidency that I have seen.”