While speaking to Bruce Springsteen on the Renegades: Born in the USA podcast, former President Barack Obama changed his tune about giving Black Americans reparations for slavery. Obama admitted that he was not able to pursue reparations for Blacks during his two terms in office because of “white resistance” to the idea but now believes that it is time. Obama famously appeared to reject the idea of reparations for slavery during his 2008 presidential campaign when he stated: “the best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed.”
The popular podcast from Obama and Springsteen launched this week with two episodes. The podcast is slated to release eight episodes in total on the Spotify platform. This is the second podcast the Obamas have released from their production company Higher Ground. Michelle Obama released her Becoming podcast to great esteem several months ago.
During the first episode of the Obama-Springsteen podcast, the pair talked about their father. In the second episode, which was released at launch on Monday, the pair spoke about the state of race relations in the United States.
Throughout their conversation, Springsteen questioned how America can be so progressive with such things but so backward when it comes to equality between the races. He specifically questioned how America could be the country to send people to the moon while still following Jim Crow laws, which legalized segregation between whites and Blacks.
“We never went through a true reckoning, and so we just buried one huge part of our experience and our citizenry in our minds,” Obama replied.
Springsteen said, “it feels like a reckoning is being called for.”
Obama then introduced the idea of reparations, which are payments made to Black Americans to help mitigate the centuries of damage that were done to their slave ancestors.
“If you ask me theoretically, ‘Are reparations justified?’ the answer is yes,” Obama responded. “There’s not much question that the wealth of this country, 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.”
Obama added that although slavery may have ended with the Civil War, “the systematic oppression and discrimination of black Americans” continued to this day.
“[It] resulted in black families not able to build up wealth, not being able to compete, and that has generational effects,” Obama said. “So if you’re thinking of what’s just, you would look back, and you would say the descendants of those who suffered those kinds of terrible cruel, often arbitrary injustices deserve some sort of regress, some sort of compensation. A recognition.”
Nevertheless, Obama is not optimistic that America could handle such honesty about its history.
“This brings us to, could you actually get that kind of justice? Could you get a country to agree and own that history? And my judgment was that as a practical matter that was unattainable,” Obama said. “We can’t even get this country to provide decent schooling for inner-city kids.”
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