Bernie Sanders' Position on Reparations Still Sucks

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Fresh off his campaign kickoff this weekend in Brooklyn and Chicago, Sen. Bernie Sanders became the most recent 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to go on the radio show The Breakfast Club, with an appearance on Monday morning.


During the interview, host DJ Envy asked Sanders what he’d do “differently” in his 2020 run to win, as opposed to his 2016 run. “This time, we’re starting from a different position,” Sanders said, citing his underdog status at the start of the 2016 campaign. “We were criticized for being too white, that was a correct criticism. We were criticized for being too male, that was a correct criticism. That’s going to change.” Sanders mentioned his co-chairs—including San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mayor Carmen Yulin-Cruz, Nina Turner, and Rep. Ro Khanna—as evidence he’s taking building a more diverse campaign seriously.

Sanders was also asked about prison reform and mass incarceration by co-host Angela Yee, and cited the work of groups like Black Lives Matter and the ACLU in electing progressive prosecutors. “We’ve got to invest in education rather than more jails and incarceration,” Sanders said. Sanders also reiterated his support for ending private prisons and decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana.

Asked by Charlemagne tha God if he has “an agenda for black people,” Sanders talked about addressing racial disparity and said it’d be good a idea to “build on” Rep. Jim Clyburn’s 10/20/30 plan to combat poverty, and combatting institutional racism within the financial and housing sectors. “We have an agenda, and it’ll be an agenda we fight vigorously for,” Sanders said.

Sanders also repeated his opposition to reparations in the form of direct cash transfers to black people, which some candidates such as Sen. Kamala Harris have talked about, albeit with some ambiguity with regards to what that would look like. Sanders’ answer was notably, and disappointingly, dismissive.

After rejecting Charlemagne’s proposal of “straight cash payouts” for black people with a flat “no,” Sanders said, “Well, then there’s a check to every Native American who were nearly wiped out when the settlers first came here.” (Potential followup question: Sure, why not?)


“I think the way we go forward is to build America together,” he added. “There are distressed white communities, there are distressed Latino communities...we’re going to pay attention to the needs of working families and low-income families in a way in which you’ve never seen.”


Sanders also avoided an answer on the question of decriminalizing sex work, which Harris recently came out in support of. “That’s a good question and I don’t have an answer for that,” Sanders said.

You can watch the full 38 minute interview below.