In his 2016 primary campaign for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders lost black voters to his then-rival Hillary Clinton by such a wide margin, his own campaign cautioned early in the campaign that Sanders had “no path to victory,” without at least doubling the performance among African Americans that he recorded in the early, crucial South Carolina primary, according to The New York Times. Sanders won just 14 percent of the black vote in South Carolina, while Clinton swept 86 percent of the demographic.
On Sunday, one of Sanders’ Democratic rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination, former mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, directly slammed Sanders on one issue that would directly affect African-American voters — the issue of slavery reparations, that is, some sort of financial compensation for the descendants of slaves in America.
Sanders has repeatedly said that he does not support slavery reparations and has — most recently in an interview on the ABC daytime talk program The View, via the show’s Twitter account — dismissed the policy of reparations as “just writing out a check.”
In an interview with CNN anchor Jake Tapper on Sunday, Castro compared Sanders’ dismissiveness toward reparations to the Vermont senator’s support for other broad social programs, such as single-payer healthcare and tuition-free college.
“It’s interesting to me that when it comes to Medicare for all, health care, you know, the response there has been we need to write a big check, that when it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been we need to write a big check,” Castro told Tapper.
We should be bold by providing universal health care and aggressively addressing climate change — AND we should be bold about reparations. pic.twitter.com/xrq54k7fdv— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) March 10, 2019
Castro said that Sanders’ argument against “writing a check” to aid African-Americans economically is an inappropriate one “if you’re making an argument that a big check needs to be written for a whole bunch of other stuff.”
In his still-young 2020 campaign, Sanders is attempting a “whole new approach to African-American voters,” according to an NBC News analysis. But he has appeared to stumble again when asked repeatedly whether he supports reparations.
Though Sanders has made economic inequality in America a centerpiece of his presidential platform since announcing his first candidacy in 2015, as CNN reported, critics — such as Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic — say that his proposed broad social programs do not address the lingering economic effects of slavery directly.
As recently as 2016, the median wealth held by black families in the United States was $17,600, slightly more than 10 percent of the median wealth held by white families, $171,000, a dramatic disparity that results from “America’s structural racism,” according to a Center For American Progress report.
In addition to Castro, Democratic candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have also said that they support some form of slavery reparations, according to The Washington Post.
In 2016, Clinton said that she would support “studying what investments we need to make,” without stating that she clearly supported reparations, according to Fusion, while Sanders said that he opposed reparations because the issue was “divisive,” and would not pass through Congress. But the argument that it would not make it through Congress was also used by opponents of Sanders’ own “Medicare For All” proposal in 2016, according to NPR.