Economic inequality is perhaps the most significant issue animating the upcoming presidential race. After four decades of economic polarization, there’s growing debate about how to put ordinary Americans back on a secure footing. And there’s growing consensus among Democrats that to recharge the middle-class American economy, once the envy of the world, we’re going to have to confront our enormous racial wealth divide.
Reparations — some form of restitution for the centuries of discrimination suffered by black Americans — are becoming almost a litmus test for 2020 Democratic hopefuls. Sen. Kamala Harris, asked about the issue last week at a CNN town hall, pointed to the ongoing impacts of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination and segregation. “To believe or suggest that those years of treatment and abuse and violence and crimes did not have an impact is to overlook the facts of history,” she said. While she demurred on endorsing reparations payouts, other candidates have offered tentative support.
Reparations need to be part of any discussion about healing the racial wealth divide, but some politicians remain wary of lingering opposition to the idea. Fortunately, this discussion also includes policies that can shrink the racial wealth divide while turning around our regressive economy for all Americans.