Former President Barack Obama says that “the politics of White resistance and resentment” kept him from pushing for financial reparations for Black Americans while he was in office.

In the second episode of his podcast with Bruce Springsteen, “Renegades: Born in the USA,” released on Monday, Obama said that he thinks reparations are “justified,” despite having opposed it during the 2008 election.

Obama said, “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.”

He added that a proposal for reparations failed during his presidency because of “the politics of White resistance and resentment.” 

The former president said, “And what I saw during my presidency was the politics of White resistance and resentment. The talk of ‘welfare queens’ and the talk of the ‘undeserving’ poor. And the backlash against affirmative action.”

According to Obama, “All that made the prospect of actually proposing any kind of coherent, meaningful reparations program struck me as, politically, not only a nonstarter but potentially counterproductive.”

He added later that it’s “perfectly understandable why working-class White folks, middle-class White folks, folks who are having trouble paying the bills or dealing with student loans, wouldn’t be too thrilled” with the idea of “a massive program that is designed to deal with the past but isn’t speaking to their future.”

This appears to represent a shift in Obama’s stance on the issue, having said during his first presidential campaign that “the best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed.” 


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