Former President Obama said the case for reparations for Black Americans is “justified,” but he added that the “politics of white resistance and resentment,” among other issues, made the prospect of pursuing the issue during his presidency a “non-starter.”
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“So, if you ask me theoretically: ‘Are reparations justified?’ The answer is yes,” the former president said in an episode on he and Bruce Springsteen’s new “Renegades: Born in the U.S.A.” podcast that launched on Spotify earlier this week.
“There’s not much question that the wealth of this country, the power of this country was built in significant part — not exclusively, maybe not even the majority of it — but a large portion of it was built on the backs of slaves,” he continued.
“What I saw during my presidency was the politics of white resistance and resentment, the talk of welfare queens and the talk of the undeserving poor and the backlash against affirmative action,” he said, adding that “all that made the prospect of actually proposing any kind of coherent, meaningful reparations program struck me as, politically, not only a non-starter but potentially counterproductive.”
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Obama previously spoke about reparations during his 2008 presidential campaign, saying in remarks at the time that while he agreed with “the underlying sentiment of recognizing the continued legacy of slavery” he had concerns about the issue.
“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,” he said.