What Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders And Barack Obama Have Said About Reparations For Slavery

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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Bernie Sanders has staying power. Here’s a comparison of what Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama have said about reparations for slavery. Image: Leela Sanikop/The Moguldom Nation

In the 2020 campaign for president, several candidates are supporting a proposal to study reparations for Black Americans as restitution for slavery and Jim Crow-era discrimination, whose effects persist to this day

Sen. Bernie Sanders is not of them, although he said in April he’ll support H.R. 40 — a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans — if the House and Senate pass the bill.

While 74 percent of Black Americans support reparations for slavery, just 15 percent of whites do, and 29 percent of Americans overall support the idea, according to a recent Associated Press-NORC poll.

Democrats desperately want President Trump out of office and the Democratic nomination battle has turned into a debate over electability, FiveThirtyEight reported.

One set of polls released last week found former Vice President Joe Biden would narrowly defeat Trump in six key swing states while the other top-tier candidates would be underdogs. Other polls find all the top-polling Democrats — Sanders, Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — would be very likely to defeat Trump.

Sanders got $25.3 million in new contributions in the last quarter — proof that his fans’ enthusiasm has remained strong and he has staying power.

“Don’t be surprised if Sanders becomes the kingmaker of the convention,” a recent New York Times headline read.

In 2016, Politifact compared what Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have said about reparations for slavery. Owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies, PolitiFact looks at certain statements made by politicians and rates them for accuracy.

Sanders’ opposition to reparations

Sanders, a 2016 candidate in the 2016 presidential race, said on Jan. 24, 2016 on “Meet The Press” that his views on reparations for slavery were the same as Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s. 

PolitiFact rated Sanders’ claim to be mostly true.

Four years ago, Sanders said he was opposed to reparations. “Its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil,” he told Fusion at the Jan. 11, 2016 Iowa Brown & Black Democratic Forum. “Second of all, I think it would be very divisive.” Instead of compensating for past injustices, Sanders suggested prioritizing economic inequality.

“I think what we should be talking about is making massive investments in rebuilding our cities, in creating millions of decent-paying jobs, in making public colleges and universities tuition-free, basically targeting our federal resources to the areas where it is needed the most, and where it is needed the most is in impoverished communities, often African-American and Latino,” Sanders said.

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Three years later on April 5, 2019, Sanders told Rev. Al Sharpton that, if elected, he would support Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s H.R. 40 bill, setting up a commission to study reparations, Axios reported. “If the House and Senate pass that bill of course I would sign it … There needs to be a study,” Sanders said at the National Action Network conference.

Clinton’s opposition to reparations

Asked about reparations at the Iowa Brown & Black Forum, Hillary Clinton also suggested investing in Black communities and addressing poverty. “We need to make many more investments in everything from pre-school education to affordable housing, that’s my form of trying to give people the chance to be empowered, to make the most out of their God-given potential,” she said.

That was also her answer to questions about reparations in her 2000 Senate campaign.

Obama’s opposition to reparations

While campaigning for the 2008 presidential election, 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’”.

“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,” Clinton said.

“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.”