I thought when I posted my earlier blog The “Monster in the Room” asking whether Obama supported slavery reparations in the form of repaying an alleged “education debt” owed black Americans, I was engaged in trying to connect the dots. I asked whether the appointment of an education advisor who supports that idea meant that Obama, too, supported the problematic proposal.
Turns out, I had the question in the wrong order. Obama has advocated pouring more money into the educational system as a form of reparations and did so before he appointed his current education advisor. I came across this report in the left wing American Prospect today that recounts an exchange Obama had during the South Carolina campaign:
“Last July during the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate, Barack Obama was asked if African Americans would ever receive slavery reparations. Clearly prepared to answer this exact question, Obama responded, ‘I think the reparations we need right here in South Carolina is investment, for example, in our schools.’ The crowd applauded.”
Obama went on to say in that debate:
“I did a town hall meeting in Florence, South Carolina, in an area called the corridor of shame. They’ve got buildings that students are trying to learn in that were built right after the Civil War. And we’ve got teachers who are not trained to teach the subjects they’re teaching and high dropout rates. We’ve got to understand that there are corridors of shame all across the country. And if we make the investments and understand that those are our children, that’s the kind of reparation that are really going to make a difference in America right now.”
The author of the American Prospect piece makes two important points: 1) some advocates of reparations are using the idea of pouring more money into troubled schools as a form of more acceptable “reparations” rather than outright payments to descendants of slaves; 2) randomly dumping money into urban schools is hardly a panacea without larger social restructuring, including integration.
Integration, for example, is not one of the four top priorities the Forum for Education and Democracy advocates for the federal government to pursue in a report it published that was co-authored by Obama’s education advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond. Paying off the “educational debt,” a concept rooted in the proposal by some for reparations, is the top priority of that group.