As the Biden administration voices support for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and her bill to fund a commission to study reparations for black citizens, former President Barack Obama explained why the issue never advanced during his own two terms in office: white people.
On the "Renegades" podcast he co-hosts with Bruce Springsteen, Obama shared his views on race relations and the part reparations might play in improving them. The former president expressed that while office he considered pursuing reparation payments to black citizens as compensation for the generation wealth lost as a consequence of slavery, but ultimately decided it would be a fruitless venture.
Obama said that while he has always thought reparations would be "justified," he knew that "the politics of white resistance and resentment" would prevent any meaningful action.
"And what I saw during my presidency was the politics of white resistance and resentment," Obama said on the podcast. "The talk of ‘welfare queens' and the talk of the ‘undeserving' poor. And the backlash against affirmative action. 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."
Though Obama said he thought it was "perfectly understandable" why financially struggling white citizens would object to a program that dwells in the past rather than providing for a better future, he stressed that "there's not much question" that a large portion of the country's wealth was "built on the backs of slaves."