Billionaire Tom Steyer: Honor MLK By Fighting For Reparations For 400 Years Of Slavery & Racial Terror

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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Tom Steyer, who has surged in recent S. Carolina polls in his run for president, said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. should be honored by fighting for reparations. Steyer spoke Jan. 14, 2020 during a Democratic presidential primary debate. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Democratic billionaire businessman Tom Steyer, who has surged in recent South Carolina polls as he runs for president, said Martin Luther King, Jr. should be honored by fighting for reparations for descendants of slaves who endured 400 years of legal discrimination and racial terror.

“If we are committed to telling the story of MLK, we cannot overlook his tireless work for economic justice — particularly later in his life,” Steyer said in a Jan. 20 tweet.

A hedge fund manager, environmentalist, activist and fundraiser, Steyer was born in New York and educated at Yale University.

He joined other Democratic presidential candidates on Jan. 20 in Columbia, South Carolina to march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and he held town hall events there.

“We would retell the story over the last 401 years so everybody understands not just the legalized, institutionalized injustice in racism … but also the contribution of the African-American community,” Steyer said in an interview with Yahoo News. “I don’t think we can be the country that we want to be until we acknowledge the past and move to accept the mistakes this country made that are dramatic and obvious, and then repair the damage.”

Steyer was in second place behind Biden in South Carolina, according to a Fox News poll released in early January.

Steyer said he’s making gains in the Democratic race because he’s willing to step out on a policy ledge. That makes him appealing to Black voters who might feel ignored by others. “I talk about race very explicitly,” Steyer told Yahoo News.

“There is no way that we can do reparations without talking about truth first. We have to do a national commission talking about what happened over that last 400 years,” Steyer said during a September interview with host Charlamagne Tha God on The Breakfast Club.

Charlamagne said, “I like the fact that people are demanding that candidates have a Black agenda. I love the conversation about reparations.”

Steyer responded, “I think it has to happen.”

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Steyer, 62, identifies climate as his No. 1 priority, but he said his climate plan is a justice-based climate plan. “And it starts in the communities, like say, Denmark, S.C., or Flint, Mich., where people can’t drink the water. We know who lives there: African-Americans.” 

Steyer is proposing a criminal justice reform plan that would reduce the cost of incarceration and redirect funds to education, community policing and rehabilitation, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

“Racial bias permeates the system, really from policing to after they’ve been incarcerated,” Steyer said.

Criminal justice reform is a top priority for many Black voters, who make up the majority of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina, where the first Southern primary will be held, AP reported. Former Vice President Joe Biden has deep support there but Steyer has been working to win Black voters.