U.S.

Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren Signal Support for Reparations for Slavery: ‘People in This Country Do Not Start From the Same Place'

Senators Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, both 2020 presidential candidates, have said they support reparations for black Americans to redress the legacy of slavery.

Last week, in an interview with The Breakfast Club radio show, Harris said she was in favor of some form of government reparations for black Americans. 

Asked for her stance on reparations, Harris said: "I think that we have got to address that again. It's back to the inequities."

"America has a history of 200 years of slavery. We had Jim Crow. We had legal segregation in America for a very long time," she said. "We have got to recognize, back to that earlier point, people aren't starting out on the same base in terms of their ability to succeed and so we have got to recognize that and give people a lift up."

The senator then pointed to her Livable Incomes for Families Today, the Middle Class Act tax cut plan, which seeks to provide middle class and working families with a tax credit of up to $6,000 a year, or $500 a month, to address the rising cost of living in the U.S. as one way to address inequity. 

Asked directly if her comments mean that she is "for some type of reparations," Harris said: "Yes, I am. Yes I am." 

The California senator appeared to confirm her support in a statement to The New York Times, asserting: "We have to be honest that people in this country do not start from the same place or have access to the same opportunities."

"I’m serious about taking an approach that would change policies and structures and make real investments in black communities," she said. 

During her interview with The Breakfast Club, Harris also said that "there is no question" that the criminal justice system is "deeply flawed" and that "there is systemic racism in the system. 

"We have a problem with mass incarceration in particular of black and brown men," she said. 

She also spoke about police brutality against black people: "There is no question that no mother or father in America should have to sit down when their son turns 12 and start having the talk with that child about how he may be stopped, arrested or killed because of the color of his skin." 

According to The Times, Warren has also expressed support for reparations, though her campaign team declined to give The Times details on what that backing might entail. 

Warren's support came amid her calls for the U.S. government to provide special home-buying assistance to U.S. residents affected by a discriminatory practice called "redlining" in which mortgages and credit was frequently denied to those living in poor and nonwhite communities. The senator also announced her Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act this week, which could also benefit minority communities affected by limited access to early childhood services. 

Neither campaign immediately responded to Newsweek's request for comment.

Advocates for government reparations have long argued that they were necessary to address the longlasting effects of slavery. 

In a statement calling for reparations published on its website, Black Lives Matter said "the government, responsible corporations and other institutions that have profited off the harm they have inflicted on Black people—from colonialism to slavery through food and housing redlining, mass incarceration and surveillance—must repair the harm done." 

Black Lives Matter has also provided an outline for what reparations it believes would be necessary to adequately address the legacy of slavery, as well as the "continuing harms" that continue to affect black communities in the U.S. 

Included in that outline are five key demands: 

1. Reparations for "the systemic denial of access to high-quality educational opportunities in the form of full and free access for all black people (including undocumented and currently and formerly incarcerated people) to lifetime education, including free access and open admissions to public community colleges and universities, technical education (technology, trade and agricultural), educational support programs, retroactive forgiveness of student loans and support for lifetime learning programs."

2. Reparations for the "continued divestment from, discrimination toward and exploitation of our communities in the form of a guaranteed minimum livable income for all black people, with clearly articulated corporate regulations." 

3. Corporate and government reparations "focused on healing ongoing physical and mental trauma, and ensuring our access and control of food sources, housing and land" to address the "wealth extracted" from black communities "through environmental racism, slavery, food apartheid, housing discrimination and racialized capitalism." 

4. Reparations for "the cultural and educational exploitation, erasure and extraction" of black communities in the form of "mandated public school curriculums that "critically examine the political, economic, and social impacts of colonialism and slavery, and funding to support, build, preserve and restore cultural assets and sacred sites to ensure the recognition and honoring of our collective struggles and triumphs."

5. Legislation at the federal and state level requiring the U.S. to formally acknowledge the "lasting impacts of slavery" and to "establish and execute a plan to address those impacts." 

The legislation would include the "immediate passage" of H.R.40, the "Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act" or later versions calling for reparations remedies. 

As The Times noted, while Harris and Warren appeared to have expressed support for reparations, other prominent Democrats, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has also entered the 2020 race, former President Barack Obama and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had not actively supported the idea. 

While other 2020 Democratic candidates have not spoken out in support of slavery reparations, several have introduced policies that appear aimed at addressing inequities between black and white families in America, including Senator Cory Booker's "baby bonds" policy, whose goal is to support children from poorer families by giving them a government-funded savings account that could see as much as $50,000 set aside for those from the lowest income brackets. 

A 2017 analysis of the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey found that black families in the U.S. were earning $57.30 for every $100 earned as income for white families. Meanwhile, for every $100 in wealth accumulated by the average white family, the average black family had gained $5.04. 

GettyImages-1090433158 Senator Kamala Harris speaks to her supporters during her presidential campaign launch rally in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza on January 27, in Oakland, California. Mason Trinca/Getty

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