A senior adviser to President Joe Biden says the administration is “going to start acting now” on reparations to African Americans, saying there’s no time to wait for a commission to study the issue.
Congress is currently debating forming a commission to study how reparations could be implemented, but White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told “Axios on HBO” in an interview set to air Monday that the issue shouldn’t wait for Congress.
“We don’t want to wait on a study. We’re going to start acting now,” he told the outlet. “We have to start breaking down systemic racism and barriers that have held people of color back and especially African Americans. We have to do stuff now.”
“Richmond said that while the timeline for the commission isn’t knowable, ‘if you start talking about free college tuition to [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] and you start talking about free community college in Title I and all of those things, I think that you are well on your way,'” Axios reported.
Last month, the White House said 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.”
White House Press Secretary Jen 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 said. “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.”
Reparations were first introduced by the late Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in 1989, and has been reintroduced repeatedly in years since by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).
But former President Barack Obama never pushed the issue, and last month told rocker Bruce Springsteen in a podcast that he would have liked to pursue reparations for slavery as part of his presidential agenda, but that the “politics of white resistance” made the issue a “non-starter.”
“Obama said he believes reparations are ‘justified’ and that ‘there’s not much question that the wealth… the power of this country was built in significant part — not exclusively, maybe not even the majority of it, but a large portion of it — was built on the backs of slaves,’” Fox News reported.