Former President Barack Obama has jumped on board the reparations bandwagon, claiming on his new podcast with singer Bruce Springsteen that reparations for black people are “justified.” He blamed the “politics of white resistance” for his administration’s failure to push the issue during his time in office, calling it a “non-starter.”
“If you ask me theoretically, ‘are reparations justified?’ The answer is yes,” said Obama on the podcast, titled “Renegades: Born in the U.S.A,” which launched 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,” Obama added.
“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. He added, “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.”
Obama previously weighed in on reparations during his 2008 presidential campaign, stating that while he agreed with the “underlying sentiment of recognizing the continued legacy of slavery” he did not agree with reparations payments, arguing that they could be used as an excuse to stop enforcing anti-discrimination laws.
“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,” said Obama, according to the Washington Post.
“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,” he said.