Obama reveals why he didn't seek reparations for Black Americans

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on October 29, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. The president commented on the George Floyd protests in a livestreamed event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Former President Barack Obama blamed "the politics of White resistance and resentment" as the reason why he didn't push financial reparations for Black Americans during his presidency.

On Monday, Obama and rock and roll legend Bruce Springsteen released the second episode of their new podcast, "Renegades: Born in the USA," where they spoke about race relations in the United States.

Toward the end of the episode, the two hosts spoke about reparations to Black Americans and whether or not the controversial policy would come to fruition.

Obama said he believes reparations are "justified" and that "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."

The former president claimed that a reparations proposal didn’t make its way through the lawmaking process during his presidency due to "the politics of White resistance and resentment." 

"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," Obama said.

"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."

Obama went on to say it was "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" about the prospect of "a massive program that is designed to deal with the past but isn't speaking to their future."

Obama appears to have changed his position on reparations over the years. He opposed reparations during his 2008 presidential campaign, arguing that "the best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed." 

Bills regarding reparations have been introduced to Congress for over three decades, with the most recent being a proposal from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.


Jackson Lee introduced H.R. 40 to the House of Representatives, which aims to set up the Committee to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans. According to the bill’s summary, the committee "shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies."

President Biden hasn't endorsed reparations outright, but he has voiced his support for forming a commission to study the issue. White House press secretary Jen Psaki reaffirmed this position last week to reporters.

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