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Congressman Jamaal Bowman criticized President Joe Biden during a recent interview, claiming the incumbent was losing considerable support among Black voters because he had not taken any meaningful action on reparations for slavery.
The New York Democrat, a member of the bloc of eight progressive Democrats called “The Squad,” made the remarks last week on MSNBC’s “Alex Wagner Tonight” show, saying there has been “no conversation at all about reparations.”
“People of color have been turned off for a while because of a lack of comprehensive immigration reform, if you’re talking about the Latino community, and no conversation at all about reparations, if you’re talking about the Black community.”
Bowman also called out the administration’s substantial military spending while suggesting the White House was avoiding a serious dialogue on compensating generations of Black Americans and providing restitution to populations who have suffered historical injustices.
“But we’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars every year on weapons in war, but we can’t even have a conversation about reparations? Those are the things that are happening right now,” he said.
Reparations have remained a controversial issue among lawmakers who have struggled for decades to find a comprehensive resolution following the end of slavery.
The reignited debate comes as Biden was trailing Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in many of the critical battleground states that the incumbent won in 2020, while some polls showed a majority of young voters disagreed with Biden’s foreign policy decisions amid the Israel-Hamas war.
Back in Washington, the conflict was serving to stoke new divisions on Capitol Hill while setting the stage for a potentially fiery primary season in 2024 as lawmakers navigate a delicate balance with voters who represent both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives, Bowman said.
After nearly three years, many Democratic voters were turning sour on Biden’s policies, with the president’s lead slipping with voters under the age of 30, and among Hispanic voters, while a recent New York Times and Siena College poll found 22 percent of registered Black voters said they planned to support the Republican nominee in the next election.
The 2022 midterm election highlighted trouble on the horizon for Democrats as turnout among Black voters was identified as one of the party’s most notable weaknesses going into 2024.
Black voters have, in recent years, witnessed a shift, particularly among Black men, who are increasingly placing trust in the GOP to address concerns related to the ability to build generational wealth, while a growing number of Black Americans harbor a growing sense of disappointment with the party which had fallen short of addressing persistent issues affecting the Black community.
“Oftentimes, we’re that extra whatever percentage that will take that particular candidate over the top to win,” Endla Thornton told The New York Times in a recent interview that highlighted the crucial role of Black women for Democratic candidates.
Previously in June, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sidestepped a direct response when asked about reparations the day after the White House hosted a celebration for Juneteenth, which was declared a federal holiday under Biden in 2021 to commemorate the emancipation of the last slaves following the end of the Civil War.
At the time, Jean-Pierre revealed the administration had not yet reviewed the reparations resolution brought forward in May by Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, who introduced the bill after decades of failed efforts by late U.S. Rep. John James Conyers to study and develop reparation plans for Black Americans.
Bush’s legislation calls on the federal government to “provide reparations to descendants of enslaved Black people and people of African descent” and to “formally apologize for the state-sanctioned institution of chattel slavery and subsequent anti-Black institutions, laws and practices.”
By Monday afternoon, the White House spokesperson, Rodericka Applewhaite, responded to inquires from Atlanta Black Star about the administration’s stand on reparations:
“President Biden believes that the legacy of slavery is a stain on our nation’s conscience, and that we must root out the systemic racism that continues to plague our laws, policies, and our culture. In line with that goal, the President has supported Congress’ efforts to study reparations and the continued impacts of slavery.
While Congress pursues these actions, President Biden is actively delivering for Black Americans by executing his Day One commitment to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities. Since taking office, the President’s agenda has secured record-low Black unemployment, a 60% increase in Black net worth since the pandemic, achieved the fastest creation rate of Black-owned small businesses in over 25 years, and expanded access to homeownership and protections against housing discrimination.”