Ben Carson on slavery reparations: ‘No one is ever going to be able to work that out’

He spoke to Jericka Duncan in an interview on CBS This Morning that aired Monday.

Ben Carson spoke to Jericka Duncan in an interview on 'CBS This Morning' that aired Monday about the viability of reparations for slavery.

Ben Carson
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 20: Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson arrives to testify before the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Ben Carson, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in a recent interview tried to dismantle long-standing arguments by advocates and scholars that the U.S. should pay reparations to descendants of slaves, claiming the racial makeup of Black Americans precludes officials from determining just how much to give relatives today.

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“What I would say about reparations is, you know, show me a mechanism that works,” he told Jericka Duncan in an interview on CBS This Morning that aired Monday. “You know, I did my DNA analysis. OK. I’m 77 percent sub-Saharan African, 20 percent European, 3 percent Asian. So how do you proportion that out to everybody?”

In response to a question from Duncan, Carson, a Republican and fierce supporter of Donald Trump, questioned how the mechanics of such an undertaking would work and even called it “unworkable.” He suggested the topic of reparations should shift from what is owed African-American descendants of slaves to creating “a better economic situation now.”

“If you can prove you’re a descendant of a slave, though, do you think it’s worth having a conversation?” Duncan asked, for which Carson replied: “Yeah, but what percentage of money do you get? What percentage of reparation? No one is ever going to be able to work that out.”

Duncan pushed back, saying: “But nobody considered what percentage of what black people looked like in the Civil Rights era. They didn’t say, ‘Well, we’re not going to discriminate against you because you might be partially this or partially that.'”

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The retired neurosurgeon wasn’t swayed. “Proportionately, you’re not going to be able to figure it out. And where do you stop it? It’s unworkable. I would much rather concentrate on how do we provide the opportunities for people to get into a better economic situation now,” Carson told CBS.

Almost immediately, Carson’s comments hit Twitter, where experts like Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter with The New York Times Magazine who covers race, weighed in on the issue.

The issue of reparations has received renewed interest this year with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) introducing a bill in the House that calls for the establishment of a commission to study the impact of slavery and the continued discrimination against Black people. before the commission makes recommendations on reparations. And Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, introduced a similar measure in the Senate this spring.

Also recently, the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish denomination, backed a resolution that calls for the creation of a federal commission to look into ways to atone for slavery and systemic racism against Black people, according to Huffington Post.