The issue of reparations for African-Americans has come front and center among the nascent Democratic presidential field, with candidates supporting ideas on everything from free college tuitions to handing out checks for the family members of former slaves.
Julián Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, said on Sunday that he was not ruling out direct payments to African-Americans for the legacy of slavery – in a move that separates him from his fellow Democratic challengers.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” from his home state of Texas – where the former San Antonio mayor is attending the South By Southwest Festival along with a number of other Democratic candidates – Castro questioned why there is opposition to paying African-Americans for the enslavement of their ancestors.
“If under the Constitution we compensate people because we take their property, why wouldn’t you compensate people who actually were property?” Castro said.
Other candidates are discussing tax credits and other subsidies, rather than direct payments for the labor and legal oppression of slaves and their descendants. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would put resources such as “Medicare-for-all” and tuition-free college into distressed communities.
Castro balked at this and said he doesn’t think that’s the proper argument for reparations if “a big check needs to be written for a whole bunch of other stuff.”
Later Sunday, Castro was joining Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper at the South by Southwest Festival for appearances before their party’s ascendant young and liberal wing. The festival has grown from obscure roots into a weeklong juggernaut of tech, politics and entertainment.
Inslee told CNN that while in office, “I have been very, very committed to making this a more just and open and tolerant society. And that’s one of the reasons Washington is so successful.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.