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Beto O’Rourke Takes a Stand on Reparations
The former Texas congressman had previously said he opposed compensatory payment to slave descendants.
O’Rourke Takes a Stand on Reparations
“Our country will never truly heal unless we address the original sin of slavery,” Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said Wednesday. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images
NEW YORK — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke appeared to open the door to considering reparations for the descendants of slaves on Wednesday, in response to a spontaneous question from the Rev. Al Sharpton at the National Action Network convention.
Asked whether he would sign into law as president a bill sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas that would create a commission to consider reparations, O’Rourke replied with an emphatic, “Yes.”
But just last month O’Rourke told an audience in Iowa he was not in favor of traditional reparations for African Americans, a position he was later confronted on during a stop in South Carolina.
“Why should I, as a black man, vote for you when you oppose reparations?” a man asked O’Rourke, according to Mediaite.
O’Rourke replied with a long answer arguing that making institutional changes like eliminating voter identification laws and gerrymandering would “begin . to get some of that repair.”
Dems’ Support for Reparations Lacks Details
Sharpton’s question came after O’Rourke addressed hundreds of NAN attendees in New York City.
“I appreciate the woman who asked me to say yes or no,” O’Rourke said. He then referenced social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson. “He said foundational to reparations is the word repair. Foundational to repair is the truth, and until all Americans understand that civil rights are not just those victories that I began with at the outset of my comments but the injustices that have been visited and continue to be visited on people, we will never get the change we need to live up to the promise of this country. So absolutely I would sign that into law.”
While this is the first time O’Rourke has taken a position on Lee’s legislation, he never explicitly committed to supporting direct monetary payments. This posture signals he’s at least now open to considering some form of reparations.
The issue has become a flashpoint in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California have conveyed in some way they are for reparations, as has former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, who also backed Lee’s legislation in his remarks to NAN on Wednesday.
“Our country will never truly heal unless we address the original sin of slavery,” he said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has not endorsed reparations, questioning how they would be implemented.
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David Catanese , Senior Politics Writer
David Catanese is senior politics writer for U.S. News & World Report and founder of the blog T . Read more David Catanese is senior politics writer for U.S. News & World Report and founder of the blog The Run 2016. You can follow him on Twitter and send him feedback at [email protected]
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