Sanders, who is running in the Democratic primary for the 2020 presidential nomination, said he was against reparations during his 2016 campaign for the White House.
When asked if he was in favor of “reparations for slavery,” he responded, “No, I don’t think so.”
The senator went on to explain, “First of all, its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil. Second of all, I think it would be very divisive. The real issue is when we look at the poverty rate among the African-American community, when we look at the high unemployment rate within the African-American community, we have a lot of work to do.”
The question is resurfacing because fellow 2020 presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have voiced support to some form of reparations to descendants of African slaves.
When an audience member asked about reparations, Sanders agreed there were “disparities” that “must be addressed” but did not directly respond to question.
“There is legislation I like introduced by Rep. Jim Clyburn. It’s called the 10-20-30 legislation, which focuses federal resources in a very significant way on distressed communities — communities that have high levels of poverty,” he explained. “I think we have to do everything we can to end institutional racism in this country.”
Noticing a pivot away from the topic, Blitzer interjected, “So what is your position specifically on reparations?”
The CNN anchor explained he wanted to know because Warren and Julian Castro, who is also bidding to be the Democratic nominee, said they support the idea.
“What does that mean?” Sanders asked sarcastically. “What do they mean? I’m not sure anyone is very clear.”
In 2016, former Atlantic journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an article dissecting why the Vermont senator is progressive on almost every topic except reparations.
Watch Monday night’s exchange below.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.