McConnell on Reparations: ‘I Find Myself Once Again in the Same Position as President Obama’

By Melanie Arter | July 9, 2019 | 3:14 PM EDT

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is opposed to slavery reparations, was asked Tuesday about reports that his ancestors were slave owners.

McConnell said he and former President Barack Obama have that and their opposition to reparations in common.

 



During a Capitol Hill press conference, McConnell was asked, “Were you aware that your great, great grandfathers were slave owners in Alabama before the Civil War, and has that revelation caused you to change your position on reparations?”

“You know I find myself once again in the same position as President Obama. We both oppose reparations, and we both are the descendants of slave owners,” McConnell said.

 

 

NBC News reported Monday that McConnell’s great-great-grandfathers “James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned a total of at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama — all but two of them female, according to the county ‘Slave Schedules’ in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.”

In a Dec. 21, 2016 interview with The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, who testified this year before Congress in favor of reparations, Obama explained his opposition to reparations.



Obama: Theoretically, you can make, obviously, a powerful argument that centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination are the primary cause for all those gaps. That those were wrongs done to the black community as a whole, and black families specifically, and that in order to close that gap, a society has a moral obligation to make a large, aggressive investment, even if it’s not in the form of individual reparations checks, but in the form of a Marshall Plan, in order to close those gaps. It is easy to make that theoretical argument. But as a practical matter, it is hard to think of any society in human history in which a majority population has said that as a consequence of historic wrongs, we are now going to take a big chunk of the nation’s resources over a long period of time to make that right. You can look at examples like postwar Germany, where reparations were paid to Holocaust victims and families, but—

Coates: They lost the war.

Obama: They lost the war. Small population, finite amount of money that it was going to cost. Not multiple generations but people, in some cases, who are still alive, who can point to, “That was my house. Those were my paintings. Those were my mother’s family jewels.” If you look at countries like South Africa, where you had a black majority, there have been efforts to tax and help that black majority, but it hasn’t come in the form of a formal reparations program. You have countries like India that have tried to help untouchables, with essentially affirmative-action programs, but it hasn’t fundamentally changed the structure of their societies.

So the bottom line is that it’s hard to find a model in which you can practically administer and sustain political support for those kinds of efforts. And what makes America complicated as well is the degree to which this is not just a black/white society, and it is becoming less so every year. So how do Latinos feel if there’s a big investment just in the African American community, and they’re looking around and saying, “We’re poor as well. What kind of help are we getting?” Or Asian Americans who say, “Look, I’m a first-generation immigrant, and clearly I didn’t have anything to do with what was taking place.” And now you start getting into trying to calibrate—

 

Obama went on to say that he has more confidence in making investments “to help every child in poverty.”

 

So to restate it: I have much more confidence in my ability, or any president or any leader’s ability, to mobilize the American people around a multiyear, multibillion-dollar investment to help every child in poverty in this country than I am in being able to mobilize the country around providing a benefit specific to African Americans as a consequence of slavery and Jim Crow.

 

 

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