Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke revealed in a Medium post published on Sunday that he is descended from slave owners.
“I was recently given documents showing that both Amy and I are descended from people who owned slaves,” the Texas Democrat wrote of himself and his wife, revealing that a paternal great-great-great grandfather of his, Andrew Cowan Jasper, owned two women in the 1850s.
O’Rourke’s maternal great-great-great grandfather, Frederick Williams, also “most likely” owned slaves.
The presidential candidate’s wife Amy had an ancestor who owned slaves, as well as an ancestor who fought in the Confederate Army.
According to O’Rourke, his ancestors “were able to build wealth on the backs and off the sweat of others,” and that wealth has been passed down to him.
Using family history to illustrate his point — that institutionalized racism is a major issue in the United States — O’Rourke listed a number of statistics meant to show that black Americans suffer more than white Americans.
“I benefit from a system that my ancestors built to favor themselves at the expense of others.”
The presidential candidate used the opportunity to introduce his supporters to a number of policy proposals. Apart from supporting reparations, O’Rourke said that he will — if he manages to win the presidency — introduce a number of education and economic policies, as well as tackle issues related to criminal justice and healthcare.
The policies he presented, according to O’Rourke, are meant to help African Americans.
O’Rourke concluded that everyone needs to know their “story and how it relates to the national story” in order to “repair the damage” that has been done.
Something that we've been talking about in town hall meetings -- the legacy of slavery in the United States -- now has a much more personal connection. I was recently given documents showing that both Amy and I are descended from people who owned slaves. https://t.co/rGKKLqcoKf— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) July 15, 2019
Cash reparations for descendants of slaves have been floated as a possible policy proposal to be adopted by the Democratic nominee, and O’Rourke appears to have fully embraced the idea.
If he manages to win the presidency, however, and provided that the GOP maintains control of the Senate, O’Rourke will face strong opposition from top Republican Mitch McConnell.
As Time reported, following revelations that his ancestors owned slaves, the Senate majority leader said that he is not in favor of reparations. He likened himself to former President Barack Obama, stating that both oppose reparations despite being descended from slave owners.
The family history of Sen. Mitch McConnell could be a case study in the way many whites built lasting wealth in part by exploiting the labor of enslaved African Americans. https://t.co/CrdMjOWdoj— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 14, 2019
As the publication noted, reports have alleged that Obama has white ancestors who were slave owners.
O’Rourke rose to prominence in 2018 after nearly beating incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. His popularity has since faded, however. According to a RealClearPolitics average of polling data, O’Rourke is polling at 2.5 percent.