Elizabeth Warren In Her Own Words On Reparations And Systemic White Supremacy

Written by Dana Sanchez
Elizabeth Warren
Years before Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced her run for president, her questions about reparations led her to Ta-Nehisi Coates. Warren speaks at the Heartland Forum held on the campus of Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, March 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Years before Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts announced her bid to run for president and came out in support of reparations, she was thinking about reparations and asking questions about reparations.

Her questions took her to Ta-Nehisi Coates, a journalist, authority on reparations and author of the groundbreaking 2014 Atlantic essay, “The Case for Reparations.”

Their meeting led Coates to conclude this week that Warren’s vocal support for reparations for slavery is more than just lip service in search of Black voter support.

Coates was asked on The New Yorker’s “Politics and More” podcast which of the many 2020 Democrats are sincere who say they support reparations. He mentioned one name: Warren. Warren had read his essay, he said. “She was deeply serious, and she had questions.” None of the other Democrat candidates reached out to him, he said.

Here, in her words, is Elizabeth Warren on reparations and systemic white supremacy:

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  • “I believe it’s time to start the national full-blown conversation about reparations in this country.”
  • “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.”
  • “Black families have had a much steeper hill to climb – and we need systemic, structural changes to address that.”
  • “America was founded on principles of liberty and freedom and on the backs of slave labor.”
  • “This is a stain on America.”
  • “We’re not going to fix that, we’re not going to change that, until we address it head-on, directly.
  • “It’s not just the original founding. It’s what’s happened generation after generation. The impact of discrimination handed down from one to the next means that today in America because of housing discrimination, because of employment discrimination, if the average white family has $100, the average black family has about $5.”
  • “I support the bill in the House to appoint a congressional panel of experts, of people who are studying this, who talk about different ways we may be able to do it, and to make a report back to Congress so that we can as a nation do what’s right and begin to heal.”

In his essay, Coates backed HR40, a bill written and introduced by former Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and introduced every Congress. Warren backs HR40, as do many other White House contenders. HR40 would establish a commission of experts to study and catalog the harm inflicted by the U.S. government on slaves and their descendants, and how the government can make reparations both financially and with a formal apology.

This is the first time in years HR40 has been discussed seriously. Coates said earlier this year that he was surprised reparations were getting so much prominent attention five years after his article was published.

“When you’re a writer you are fortunate if anybody pays attention to anything you do so you have to write out of some sort of deep-seated belief. So I’m shocked to see this continuing now,” Coates said.