White House press secretary Jen Psaki signaled on Wednesday that President Joe Biden is open to considering racial reparations depending on the actions of Congress, promising that the president is committed to taking “comprehensive action to address the systemic racism that persists today.”
Racial reparations is a widely unpopular proposal in the United States which, even immediately following the racially charged death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, only 20 percent of Americans supported.
Psaki made the remarks during an exchange with a reporter who brought up that Biden said during his campaign that he supported a study for reparations. “Does the President support the legislation?” the reporter asked. “He stopped short of saying that during the campaign. Would he sign that if it came to his desk?”
“Well, he’s supported a study of reparations, which is I believe is what’s being discussed, and studying the continuing impacts of slavery, which is being discussed in this hearing on H.R. 40, I believe it is,” Psaki responded. “And he continues to demonstrate his commitment to take comprehensive action to address the systemic racism that persists today. Obviously, that is — having that study is a part of that, but he has signed an executive order on his first day, which would begin to deliver on his commitment to having an across-government approach to addressing racial inequality and making sure equity is a part of his entire policy agenda.”
Psaki said that Biden did not need to study reparations to know that the administration needed to take action on alleged “systemic racism,” adding that Biden “wants to take actions within his own government in the meantime.
When pressed on whether Biden would sign the bill if it came to his desk, Psaki said, “Well, it’s working its way through Congress. He’d certainly support a study, but we’ll see what happens through the legislative process.”
“Why not, on this issue, create a commission and — by executive order?” the reporter asked.
“He actually signed a number of actions on racial equity in — on his first day or his first couple of days in office because he felt it was essential to send the message to the American people and the world that having an across-government approach, ensuring that equity is a central part of his policy agenda was, you know, not just a single — a singular issue but something that would be a part of every policy issue he approaches, whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s economic inequality, a range of issues,” Psaki responded. “That’s his approach and how he’s trying to, you know, change — address the root causes of racism in our country today.”
When again pressed on the issue, Psaki said that would be “up to” Biden.
Biden’s apparent warming to the idea of reparations comes after he said early in his political career that “I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”
“I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race.’ I don’t buy that,” Biden said in the mid-’70s when he was a freshman senator. “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. And I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”