House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), the highest-ranking African-American member of Congress, dismissed the idea of reparations to reduce economic racial disparity, as Democrat candidates for the presidency express support for the concept.
In a Tuesday interview with the Post and Courier, Clyburn panned “pure” reparations as “impossible to implement.” “[W]e can deal with the issue [of racial inequality] if we just admit, first of all, that it exists and then come up with some straightforward ways to deal with it,” the 78-year-old lawmaker said.
Clyburn also took aim at the idea of creating “opportunity zones,” a policy championed by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who lobbied for the policy’s inclusion in President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax reform bill. The idea would provide tax breaks to real estate developers building in low-income communities. “That’s BS,” the top House Democrat said of the proposal, later claiming “It’s a bunch of smoke and mirrors.”
The Post and Courier reports:
Clyburn said he fears reparations would lead to contested debates about who would be eligible due to the sprawling family trees that have evolved in the generations since slavery was abolished.
Even some white people who have never personally felt the effects of racial discrimination could end up making claims that they have family connections to former slaves, Clyburn said, pointing to some of his own acquaintances in Charleston who he said would fall under that category.
“Is that a fair way to do it?” Clyburn asked. “I say not.”
Clyburn’s remarks come after presidential contenders Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) affirmed their support for the idea. “We have to be honest that people in this country do not start from the same place or have access to the same opportunities,” Harris said in a statement to the New York Times last month. “I’m serious about taking an approach that would change policies and structures and make real investments in black communities.”
Warren told Reuters she supports government reparations to African-Americans who were impacted economically by slavery.“We must confront the dark history of slavery and government-sanctioned discrimination in this country that has had many consequences including undermining the ability of Black families to build wealth in America for generations,” Warren said.
“Black families have had a much steeper hill to climb – and we need systemic, structural changes to address that,” she added.
Clyburn voiced satisfaction with Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) proposal to lessen racial inequality. In a recent CNN town wall, Sanders said he would apply Clyburn’s “10-20-30” formula to solve poverty in different parts of the country. The policy allocates ten percent of federal funds to counties containing at least 20 percent living below the poverty line in the last three decades.
“To me, that’s a much better way to deal with what reparations is supposed to be about,” Clyburn told the newspaper.