Former President Barack Obama (D) says he believes financial reparations for Black Americans are “justified” but that he did not pursue the policy while he was in office because of “the politics of White resistance and resentment.”
In an episode of his new podcast with singer Bruce Springsteen called “Renegades: Born in the USA,” the two discussed whether the country is ready to “consider” racial reparations.
Obama said he believes reparations are “justified.”
“If you ask me theoretically, ‘Are reparations justified?’ The answer is yes,” Obama said. “There’s not much question. Right? That the wealth of this country, the power of this country, was built in significant part, not exclusively maybe not the even majority of it, but a large portion of it was built on the backs of slaves.”
The former president argued that “that even after the end of formal slavery, and the continuation of Jim Crow, the systematic oppression and discrimination of Black Americans resulted in Black families not being able to build up wealth, not being able to compete, and that has generational effects.”
Springsteen asked Obama, “How do you as president, knowing all of the above… push or prepare the nation for something that feels, as you say, ‘so justified’ or not?”
Listen to the podcast below:
“So, this then brings us to ‘Could you actually get that kind of justice? Could you get a country to agree and own that history?’ And my judgment was that as a practical matter, that was unattainable. We can’t even get this country to provide decent schooling for inner-city kids,” Obama responded.
He continued, “And what I saw during my presidency was that 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… 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 counterproductive.”
Obama proceeded to say that “it’s perfectly understandable why working-class white folks, middle-class white folks, folks who are having trouble paying the bills or dealing with student loans… or you know, don’t have healthcare. Where they feel like government has let them down. Wouldn’t be thrilled with the idea of a massive program that is designed to deal with the past but isn’t speaking to their future.”
Still, he said he believes it is worth talking about reparations “if for no other reason to educate the country about a past that too often isn’t taught… and let’s face it, we’d rather forget.”