Beto O'Rourke Says All Americans Must Understand History of Slavery Before Cash Reparations Can Be Pursued

Eyes on 2020An in-depth look at the candidates vying for the highest office in the land in 2020.

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke told The Root in an on-camera interview that all Americans need to understand the story of slavery before the government considers cash reparations for descendants of slaves.


“I would support those steps that would allow us to repair the damage done and to stop visiting this kind of injustice on future generations,” O’Rourke said. “But I am convinced in a democracy, unless everybody understands the story of this country—and most people do not—you’ll never get to that action or that end result.”

I pushed back on O’Rourke’s response.

“There would be a lot of people...who would say that a lot of Americans did not understand why Jim Crow was wrong or they didn’t understand why other practices of discrimination or slavery was wrong,” I said. “So, if you wait on people to get a conscience, then it will never happen. So, I think that would be the concern that people would have about your desire to tell a story that is pretty much known, but people may not want to hear.”

O’Rourke held firm on his position.

“I think part of the problem is that not everyone knows that story,” he said. “In a democracy, unless you have the political will to take a very tough step, you’re not going to be able to do it.”

The reparations conversation (which starts at 16:23 in the full video below) was one of many The Root had with O’Rourke. We asked him about his low polling numbers in Iowa and how he expects black people to support his candidacy if voters in Iowa aren’t excited about him (4:10). We also discussed the Exonerated Five and whether or not President Donald Trump should apologize to them (5:36). At 13:11, he explained how, as president, he would seek accountability for Sandra Bland and why he supports Julián Castro’s plan to limit qualified immunity for police officers in cases of deadly force (14:28).

O’Rourke has gone on record calling himself a capitalist, so we asked him if there can be capitalism without racism and classism (22:21). He shared how he would address the gender wage gap for black women (23:56) and explained his views of whether incarcerated people should have the right to vote (24:57). We also discussed maternal mortality rates among black women (28:14); Roe v. Wade (30:03); HBCU funding (31:07); Debt-free college (32:14); what he has learned from talking to black voters in South Carolina (33:55); and if he is hoping to get another Beyoncé endorsement (35:52).


Watch the full interview below:

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior reporter at The Root. He is currently writing a book proposal that analyzes US-Russia relations from a black perspective.


Forget the money. Give me:

1. Free medical/Dental/Vision. Use the VA template because contrary to what people say, that shit works.

2. No taxes for 20 years.

3. No down payment/low interest home loan (once again, use the VA model).

4. Free college to any school once accepted.

5. Low interest business loan.

Do that and I can get my own money.