ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), a 2020 presidential candidate, said that a “conversation” about reparations for the descendants of slaves should take place in “every community” and he committed to signing a bill to study the issue if Congress passed the legislation.
O’Rourke was asked if he would support compensation for the descendants of slaves. In his answer, O’Rourke explained that he discussed the reparations issue with Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights lawyer and political activist. O’Rourke said Stevenson explained that he might not be able to have a “Truth in Conciliation Commission like you had in South Africa” and “may not be able to force the coming together” that’s starting to take place in Rwanda.
“You may not have, as they did in Germany, forcing every single citizen or almost every citizen to go to those places that they would otherwise deny to address their complicity in the problem that they created in the deaths of millions. We need something like that here, but I’ll just be honest with you, given the composition of this country and the fact that we are still a white majority and that far too many people who look like me aren’t going to voluntarily take that action, Bryan Stevenson says this has to happen at a community by community level,” O’Rourke said during a recent campaign rally in Old Town, Alexandria.
“Now I’m all for Sheila Jackson Lee’s bill that would set up a reparations commission. I would sign that into law in a heartbeat but I want to make sure that in every community at every level, here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, perhaps especially, that we are ready to have that conversation person to person, eyeball to eyeball, just like we’re doing in this room right now. I’m convinced that if we do that, we will form the consciousness and the political will to take the action necessary to repair the damage done, repair the root of the word reparation and to stop visiting that injustice on future generations,” he added.
O’Rourke was referring to H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, which would “establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.”