Democratic Candidates Considering Reparations for Slavery

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As the 2020 presidential election draws nearer, Democratic party candidates are testing the waters with voters on a myriad of ideas. One of the most complicated issues that has been brought forth is making reparations for slavery. This is the concept that the descendants of Africans, bought and sold as part of the Atlantic slave trade, should receive some form of compensation. The idea has supporters and critics alike, from all kinds of backgrounds. Supporters of the idea hope that reparations would address racial inequality in the United States. They argue that it would improve the lives of a group of people who have experienced disadvantages across generations. Several Democratic presidential candidates are now considering what reparations for slavery would actually look like.

What should reparations include?

The compensation would most likely be monetary. However, several candidates are advocating creating a commission to study what possibilities for reparations could look like. After the civil war, freed slaves were promised “40 acres and a mule” as a way for them to own land they once worked on. That promise did not come to fruition. Most land was given back to the white land owners who originally owned it. This exact idea doesn’t make sense for today, but candidates have a wide variety of ideas on how to implement reparations.

Who supports reparations?

Senator Cory Booker has advocated giving $1,000 bonds to newborns of low-income families. His plan would also add $2,000 to the bonds each year until the child turns 18. Senator Kamala Harris has proposed a “LIFT the Middle Class” Act. The act would benefit middle-class families of all races, not just African Americans. Julian Castro and Senator Elizabeth Warren have also voiced their support.

Who does not support reparations?

Senator Bernie Sanders hasn’t outright condemned the idea, though he refused to back it without a clear definition of exactly what a plan to make reparations would look like. House Majority Whip James Clyburn remains unconvinced. The highest ranking black person in congress, he believes that full implementation is not possible.

Why is this conversation coming up now?

It seems that the Democratic Party is moving further left since the last election. In 2016, former Secretary of State and then-presidential candidate Hilary Clinton did not include reparations in her platform. Non-white voters make up a significant portion of the Democratic voting base, and there are more non-white candidates that have announced their intent to run than seen in previous years. Though there is a clear case for the idea of making reparations to the descendants of slaves, it may be an attempt to win over African American voters. Conversely, the candidates who have not voiced their support, or who have supported alternative measures, may be concerned about alienating low-income white voters.

As the presidential election draws nearer, this issue could become more important. Many experts say that the United States needs to make amends for the atrocities of slavery. However, there seems to be no agreement on exactly how to accomplish that.

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