Race and racism have driven the political conversation in America in the couple of weeks leading into the second Democratic debate. And a big question coming into the first night was how the candidates would handle issues regarding race, especially since the random draw placed every minority contender on the second night.
One answer was provided in one of the night’s more memorable moments, by the author Marianne Williamson. Williamson has been something of a curiosity in the field — she denounced having “plans” in the first debate — albeit one with a very soothing voice. She has nonetheless managed to perform well enough in polls and fundraising to qualify for the debate stage ahead of seasoned politicians.
Williamson was asked about her support for reparations, which she has discussed before as you can see in the video above. She has argued that the government should pay up to $500 billion in reparations. Moderator Don Lemon asked her what made her qualified to determine how much is owed in reparations, which is a thorny question in the debate over them. Here’s what she said:
First of all, it’s not $500 billion in ‘financial assistance.’ It’s $500 billion dollars — $200 to $500 billion dollars — payment of a debt that is owed. That is what reparations is. We need some deep truth-telling when it comes. We don’t need another commission to look at evidence, I appreciate what Congressman O’Rourke has said. It is time for us to simply realize that this country will not heal. All that a country is is a collection of people. People heal when there is some deep truth-telling. We need to recognize when it comes to the economic gap between blacks and whites in America. It does come from a great injustice that has never been dealt with. That great injustice has had to deal with the fact that there were 250 years of slavery followed by another 100 years of domestic terrorism.
What makes me qualified to say $200 to $500 billion dollars? I’ll tell you what makes me qualified. If you did the math of the 40 acres and a mule given that there were four to five million slaves at the end of the Civil War and they were all promised 40 acres and a mule for every family of four. If you did the math today it would be trillions of dollars. And I believe anything less than $100 billion dollars is an insult and I believe that $200 to $500 billion is politically feasible today because so many Americans realize there is an injustice that continues to form a toxicity underneath the surface and an emotional turbulence that only reparations will heal.
Reparations has not polled particularly well with the American public, but the topic has seen renewed focus this year as many presidential candidates have been asked to address it and the House held a hearing on it earlier this summer.
Williamson is still largely unknown and not polling particularly well, but her name trended on Twitter and in search after her response, which probably stood out all the more because it wasn’t strictly the spiritual speak she’s become known for. She did work some of that in on another answer that impressed the crowd, this one on the water crisis in nearby Flint, Mich., that included a reference to “dark psychic force.”
I assure you, I lived in Grosse Pointe — what happened in Flint would not have happened in Grosse Pointe. This is part of the dark underbelly of American society. The racism, the bigotry, and the entire conversation that we’re having here tonight — if you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.