HUD Secretary Ben Carson Calls Reparations 'Unworkable'

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson claimed reparations, which calls for some form of restitution to the descendants of enslaved people, are “unworkable.”

Carson, the only African American in Trump’s cabinet, and its longest-serving member, told CBS News that logistically reparations just isn’t feasible.

“What I would say about reparations is, you know, show me a mechanism that works,” Carson told correspondent Jericka Duncan. “You know, I did my DNA analysis. OK. I’m 77 percent sub-Saharan African, 20 percent European, 3 percent Asian. So how do you proportion that out to everybody?”

Despite the growing support for reparations, Carson claimed that no one would ever be able to work out a way to distribute the money.

“Proportionately, you’re not going to be able to figure it out. And where do you stop it? It’s unworkable,” Carson said. “So, I would much rather concentrate on how do we provide the opportunities for people to get into a better economic situation now.”

Carson is far from the only Republican to denounce the idea of reparations. In June, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said he opposed reparations for African Americans and used former President Barack Obama as a reason why.

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters on June 18. “We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African American president.”

McConnell added: “I think we’re always a work in progress in this country but no one currently alive was responsible for that.”

Despite Republican pushback, reparations has found growing support among Democrats as well as the world of academics.

Reparations By The Numbers

An AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released in October shows the deep divide in support for reparations among Americans. The poll found that just 29 percent of the nearly 1,300 Black, white and Hispanic Americans surveyed support the government paying reparations to the descendants of enslaved people. Despite 54 percent of white people saying they believe the history of slavery continues to impact Black Americans “a great deal,” only 15 percent support reparations.

Conversely, 83 percent of Black respondents said slavery still affected them, with 75 percent of Blacks supporting reparations, according to CNN. Less than half of those surveyed told the pollsters that the government should issue an official apology for slavery.

The AP-NORC’s poll reveals a consistent divide among Americans over the compensation or cash benefits for descendants of enslaved people. The left-leaning Data for Progress found in a July 2018 survey that just 26 percent of Americans supported reparations. While a May 2016 survey from Marist revealed that 26 percent of Americans believed the U.S. government should pay reparations as “a way to make up for the harm caused by slavery and other forms of racial discrimination,” FiveThirtyEight reported.

Democrats and Academia Embrace Reparations

While the general public may not be fully on board with reparations, several Democrats and academic institutions have moved forward in embracing some form of restitution. In June, the House Judiciary Committee’s sub-committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing on reparations and heard testimony from Danny Glover and Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the 2014 essay “The Case for Reparations.”

Several Democratic presidential candidates have expressed support for the idea of reparations, including Senators and presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. While neither candidate has revealed what reparations would look like under their presidencies, Booker’s campaign suggested that his baby bonds proposal would be a “form of reparations” by providing all newborns a savings account, according to Vox.

Fellow candidate Marianne Williamson has proposed reparations in the form of direct cash payouts to descendants of enslaved people over a period of 20 years. Williamson told CNN that her administration would allocate between $200 billion and $500 billion for the proposal and would establish a 30 to 50-person commission of African American leaders to determine how that money would be distributed.

Meanwhile, academic institutions around the U.S. and across the pond in the U.K. have moved forward in providing reparations for their roles in the slave trade. This fall, two seminaries in the U.S. approved millions in reparations. In October, Princeton Seminary approved $27 million in 30 scholarships for the descendants of enslaved people and other initiatives, including the hiring of a full-time director for the Center for Black Church Studies.

In the U.K., several universities have made historic commitments for reparations for supporting and benefiting from the transatlantic slave trade. The University of Glasgow in Scotland announced in August that it was committing £20 million (approx. $24 million) to “reparative justice” that would fund research, coordinate academic collaborations and help raise awareness about the history of slavery through a new Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research with The University of the West Indies (UWI).

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.