Obama reveals ‘white resistance’ stopped him from pushing for reparations

'What I saw during my presidency was the talk of welfare queens and the talk of the undeserving poor and the backlash against affirmative action'

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Throughout his presidential terms, it appeared that Barack Obama was opposed to reparations in America. Now, the former president is clarifying that he does believe reparations for Black Americans are ‘justified’ but that overt resistance from white people in power stopped him from pushing for it during his presidency. 

This week, Obama and Bruce Springsteen launched a special eight-episode podcast series called Renegades: Born in the USA through Spotify’s partnership with the Obama’s Higher Ground production company.

Read More: Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen open up about ‘unlikely friendship’ on new podcast Renegades

In the second episode, released on Monday, the duo spoke about race relations in the United States, and that’s when the country’s first Black president finally explained why he believed reparations were a “non-starter.”

The discussion kicked off with Springsteen – perhaps rhetorically – asking Obama how the same country that sent a man to the moon also be responsible for abhorrent Jim Crow laws.

“We never went through a true reckoning and so we just buried one huge part of our experience and our citizenry in our minds,” Obama responds.

“So if you ask me theoretically: ‘Are reparations justified?’ The answer is yes,” he admitted to the 71-year-old rock legend. “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.”

“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,” the 59-year-old continued. “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 counter-productive.”

While the racial climate may have dissuaded Obama during his presidency, the Biden administration appears to be more optimistic on the topic of reparations.

On the eve of Election Day, former President Barack Obama speaks at a drive-in mobilization rally to get out the vote for Georgia Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Atlanta. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

As we previously reported, sources claim President Joe Biden favors the idea behind a reparations bill that Vice President Kamala Harris endorsed while in the Senate. But despite this support, the president has yet to explicitly endorse the legislation itself.

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Back in January, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee submitted H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act to uncover the lasting impact of slavery in the United States and to provide a monetary payout.

“Today there are more people at the table — more activists, more scholars, more CEOs, more state and local officials, and more Members of Congress,” she stated in a press release obtained by theGrio. “However, despite this progress and the election of the first American President of African descent, the legacy of slavery lingers heavily in this nation.”

The statement continued:

“While we have focused on the social effects of slavery and segregation, its continuing economic implications remain largely ignored by mainstream analysis. These economic issues are the root cause of many critical issues in the African American community today, such as education, healthcare, and criminal justice policy, including policing practices. The call for reparations represents a commitment to entering a constructive dialogue on the role of slavery and racism in shaping present-day conditions in our community and American society.”

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