Democrats should not make reparations a priority, according to lawyer, author and CNN political commentator Van Jones.
During a recent segment, Jones claimed that talk of reparations takes the focus off issues that concern poor Americans. He said Democrats might fail during the midterm elections due to politicians using such terms as “reparations” and “Latinx” — terms that alienate voters.
A year ago, Jones accepted a whopping $100 million from billionaire Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The gift came with no strings attached but is earmarked for charitable causes, The Daily Beast reported.
Jones revealed few specifics about his plans for the massive charity windfall.
He co-founded Dream Corps in 2015, which supports reducing the U.S. prison population, and the racial justice organization, Color of Change, in 2005. He is also the founding CEO of Reform Alliance, a nonprofit focused on prison reform that was launched in early 2019 with Meek Mill, Jay-Z, and leaders in sports and business.
For people “very low down on the economic ladder who need a bunch of stuff, you wind up over-promising– we’re going to give you reparations,” Jones said. “To people at the bottom of the economic ladder [that’s] talking weird to appeal to” progressives.
YouTube channel Rebel HQ posted the CNN snippet on June 25 under the headline, “Van Jones Thinks Americans Are Demanding Too Much.”
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This wasn’t the first time the former advisor to President Barack Obama played down the importance of reparations. In an October 2019 interview with the Indianapolis Recorder, Jones said monetary reparations would carry less weight than policies to boost Black wealth.
“You know, the conversation about reparations is very interesting,” Jones said. “My observation is if you say, ‘I want a billion dollars to help Black people,’ the first question people ask is, ‘Why?’ If you say, ‘I want it for the past because of past wrongdoing,’ people who are non-Black tend to have very little enthusiasm.”
He added,” If you say, ‘Never mind. I just want it to address some of the inequities in the present; I’m not talking about reparations, I’m talking about redistribution of wealth and income,’ there also seems to be a really big drop-off of enthusiasm for those answers. If you say, ‘I want a billion dollars to invest in a better future,’ there tends to be a little more interest.”
He went on to stress that the Obama administration had plans that were more effective than monetary reparations would ever be.
“I’ve just been more successful talking about investment and green and clean solutions moving forward,” said Jones, comparing policies to reparations.
Jones praised the Obama stimulus package. “We had $787 billion in the Obama stimulus package; $80 billion of that went to investment in green and clean solutions. Much of that wound up in low-income communities.”
Jones does admit that reparations were owned to Black Americans, but that monetary reparations are not the solution.
“Do I personally believe that reparations are owed to a people that have spent 300 years in slavery? Yeah, I do. Do I think that that is the best or only rationale for a major investment in poor communities and Black communities? Probably not,” he concluded.
The racial wealth gap continues to grow in the U.S. The median white household has about $100,000 to $200,000 net worth, while Black households have $10,000 to $20,000 net worth, Harvard University’s Harvard Gazette reported.
Most reparations experts including Duke University economist and wealth inequality expert William Sandy Darity concur that the only way to close the racial wealth gap is through monetary reparations.
Bezos’ “surprise” donation to Jones is part of the Amazon CEO’s philanthropic initiative, the Courage and Civility Award, founded to honor courageous people working to change the world with passion and civility.
Photo: Van Jones, Left, attends the Opportunity Network 11th Annual Night of Opportunity Gala in New York City, April 19, 2018 (Dennis Van TIne/STAR MAX/IPx) / Jeff Bezos, right, at the premiere of “The Post” in Washington, D.C. (STAR MAX File Photo: 12/14/17)