Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) again dodged a question on Monday evening about whether the descendants of slaves should receive financial payments as a form of reparations.
At a CNN town hall event in Mississippi, Warren said that “America was founded on principles of liberty and freedom and on the backs of slave labor,” which she said is “a stain on America” that will be unable to be fixed.
When asked if she supported “direct transfers of money” to the “descendants of slaves and Native Americans,” Warren spoke about supporting a Congressional commission on the issue, sidestepping the question at hand.
“There’s a lot of ways to think about the way they should be formed. And I noticed Georgia’s question started with the frame of an apology and national recognition,” Warren said. “We have a lot of experts around the country, a lot of activists that have a whole lot of different approaches to it, and I think the best we can do right now, I love the idea of this Congressional commission. Let’s bring people together and let’s open that conversation as Americans. Let’s see what ideas people want to put on the table, and let’s talk them through. Because I have to tell you, ignoring the problem is not working.”
In an interview with CNN in Harlem last week, Warren “was asked three times whether she supports money being given to Americans who can trace their roots to slavery.” She punted each time, speaking about the need for the country “to have the conversation” on reparations.
“We need to address the fact that in this country, we built great fortunes and wealth on the backs of slaves and we need to address that head-on — we need to have that national conversation,” Warren told CNN then. “There are scholars, there are activists who’ve talked about a lot of different ways we might structure reparations.”
Most Democrats, with the exception of former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, have given vague responses on the issue of reparations, an issue of importance to the party’s critical black primary voters.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), for instance, has said there needs to be some form of reparations to help African-Americans heal from the “trauma” caused by slavery while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said during a recent appearance on The View that “there are better ways” to address the reparations issue “than just writing out a check.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also said on Sunday that reparations do not “have to be a direct pay for each person.”
Castro, though, expressed an openness to supporting direct financial payments to the descendants of slaves, saying on CNN’s State of the Union program last week that it is interesting to him that “when it comes to Medicare for All, health care, the response there has been, ‘We need to write a big check.’ When it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been, ‘We need to write a big check.’”
“And so, if the issue is compensating the descendants of slaves, I don’t think the argument about writing a big check ought to be the argument that you make, if you’re making an argument that a big check needs to be written for a whole bunch of other stuff,” Castro said. “So, if, under the Constitution, we compensate people because we take their property, why wouldn’t you compensate people who actually were property?”