Steyer: U.S. reparations for slavery will help 'repair the damage'

NEW YORK — Billionaire and presidential candidate Tom Steyer reiterated his support Wednesday for reparations for African-Americans suffering from the legacy of slavery.

“We would retell the story over the last 401 years so everybody understands not just the legalized, institutionalized injustice in racism — which is definitely a huge part of this story — but also the contribution of the African-American community,” Steyer said in an interview with Yahoo News’ “Hot Mic With Brittany Shepherd.” “I don’t think we can be the country that we want to be until we acknowledge the past and move to accept the mistakes this country made that are dramatic and obvious, and then repair the damage.”

A Fox News poll released in early January showed Steyer in second place behind former Vice President Joe Biden in South Carolina, a state with a large African-American population.

“To be clear, I talk about race very explicitly,” Steyer said when asked why he is making considerable gains in the Democratic race in this key early state. He argued that his willingness to step out on a policy ledge, so to speak, makes him appealing to voters of color who might feel ignored by others.

Tom Steyer interviewed on "Hot Mic with Brittany Shepherd" at the BUILD Studio in New York. (Screengrab: Build/Yahoo News)
Tom Steyer interviewed on "Hot Mic With Brittany Shepherd" at the Build Studio in New York. (Screengrab: Build/Yahoo News)

“I believe that in every major policy area, there is an unspoken area about race,” Steyer added. “For instance, I’m saying climate is my No. 1 priority. I’m also saying our climate plan is called a justice-based climate plan. And it starts in the communities, like say, Denmark, S.C., or Flint, Mich., where people can’t drink the water. We know who lives there: African-Americans. We know who lives in the San Joaquin Valley where people can’t drink the water safely out of the taps: low-income Latinos.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is the only other remaining Democratic candidate in the race to have come out in favor of reparations for slavery, but after telling the New York Times last year that she supports them, she has also said she favors studying the proposal further. Nearly every other candidate supports a House bill that would establish a body to research reparations.

Critics say the overarching reason Steyer has made such strides is that he is flooding the markets in early states with millions of dollars in advertisements — a strategy that his rival Andrew Yang believed would be a turnoff to voters.

Steyer, who made his fortune as a hedge fund manager, bristled at that notion, saying instead that his straight talk about race, as well as his willingness to establish a presidential commission on racial justice, puts him at a tactical advantage.


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