The White House has confirmed President Joe Biden’s support for studying reparations, boosting a push in Congress to seek “appropriate remedies” for slavery and discrimination against black Americans dating from 1619 to today.
Biden “certainly would support a study of reparations” and the “continuing impacts of slavery,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday. “He continues to demonstrate his commitment to taking comprehensive action to address the systemic racism that persists today,” and the reparations study is one part of that “across-government” approach, she added.
Jen Psaki: “[President Biden] certainly would support a study of reparations. We understand that we don’t need a study to take action right now on systemic racism. So he wants to take actions within his own government in the meantime.” pic.twitter.com/Fjlqhxr5ab
— The Hill (@thehill) February 17, 2021
The statement came as a House subcommittee debated a bill that would fund a study of “slavery and discrimination in the Colonies and the US from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies,” including possible reparations to black people. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, reintroduced the bill in January.
The latest progress in the push for reparations marks a shift in the Democratic Party, after such leaders as former President Barack Obama, 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) declined to endorse such a program. But with identity politics becoming even more of a driving force in Democrat campaign strategy, reparations became a serious issue in the party’s primary elections.
Biden wouldn’t commit on the campaign trail to funding reparations, but he did signal support for studying the idea. He told the Washington Post that “there can be no realization of the American dream without grappling with the original sin of slavery.” With Democrats also controlling the House and Senate, the study may finally have a chance to go forward after being proposed for decades.
The political push is so intense that CNN reported Tuesday on a Harvard Medical School study asserting that reparations could have reduced Covid-19 deaths among blacks.
But even if the study bill is passed and signed by Biden, the reparations movement may be a long way from making slavery-compensation payments a reality. Among other issues, the government would have to decide whether payments would go to all black Americans, all blacks in America, or only descendants of slavery. Congress also would need to define who is considered black, or how a person would prove his or her qualifications for payment. Then there would be the question of how to pay for reparations, which would essentially mean penalizing non-black taxpayers for their skin color.
Or perhaps reparations would need to go further. Writer Tiffany Elliott argued that reparations represent a necessary “repentance of our national sin” and should be extended to “all undesirables,” including women, homosexuals, transgender people and HIV victims. In her view, apparently, only heterosexual and able-bodied white and Hispanic males would need to fund payments to virtually everyone else. Most wouldn’t be descendants of slaveholders, and some would be migrants to the country.
Reparations are a necessary step in the “amends” process of repentance of our national sin. I can never stress this enough. The same must be extended to all “undesirables”; homosexual/transgender, women, victims of HIV/AIDS, disabled, the environment.
— Tiffany Elliott 📚🖊🔥👩🏽💻 (@TiffRichElliott) February 17, 2021
Of course, pushback can be expected from those white males and other conservatives. “This is insane for people to have to pay for other people’s horrific mistakes that we had nothing to do with,” said conservative commenter Chastity Guinn.
White House is supporting looking into slavery reparations-This is insane for people to have to pay for other people’s horrific mistakes that we had nothing to do with. I’m sorry but come on. 🤦🏼♀️White House says would support a study of slavery reparations https://t.co/gdjL8p3OEA
— Chastity🇺🇸 (@GuinnChastity) February 17, 2021
Other observers said support for reparations – or even studying reparations – is contrary to Biden’s message of uniting the country. Still others pointed out that Republicans enacted the true remedy for slavery by ending it. Many observers suggested that merely supporting a study wouldn’t lead to any real action, and Psaki’s statement was an artful way to “say no without using that word.”
I thought Biden was a Uniter and not a divider. Boy, was I wrong!
— Texas Red ☜︎♫🇺🇸 (@JohnByron32) February 17, 2021
The Dems are extremely good at taking half an hour to say no without using that word.
— notreallyaperson (@neverpersonally) February 17, 2021
“Joe, you only won because you’re not Donald Trump, period,” one commenter said. “Try this stuff, and you’ll lose your House and Senate majorities as independents and libertarians hit the
polls hard to stop the idiocy.”
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