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In the middle of Tuesday night’s debate, political outsider and spiritual author Marianne Williamson re-upped her support for reparations — but she did so with some serious number-crunching.
“If you did the math of the 40 acres and a mule, given that there were 4 to 5 million slaves at the end of the Civil War,” Williamson said, “it would be trillions of dollars, and I believe that anything less than $100 billion is an insult.”
Williamson has said she supports $200 billion to $500 billion in reparations for slavery and its institutional injustices. When a moderator referred to that money as "financial assistance," Williamson snapped back and corrected him as “a payment of debt that is owed." Afterward, the debate audience erupted into some of the biggest applause of the night.
Only a handful of Democratic candidates for president have endorsed reparations in some form, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris and former housing secretary Julian Castro.
Notably, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — one of the most progressive Democrats running for president — has specifically declined to support reparations. He’s argued “there are better ways to do that than just writing a check.”
House Democrats held a historic hearing in June on a bill that would establish a commission to study the socioeconomic impact of slavery on black Americans and how reparations could be most effectively levied.
But Williamson has rejected the idea of forming a commission. Her comment about “forty acres and a mule” is a colloquial reference to the plan devised by Union leaders near the end of the Civil War to give land and assets to newly-freed slaves, which was ultimately abandoned by President Andrew Johnson once he took office.
Presumably, Williamson’s figure relies on land value adjusted for inflation.
“All that a country is is a collection of people,” Williamson said. “People heal when there is some deep truth-telling. We need to recognize that when it comes to the economic gap between blacks and whites in America, it does come from a great injustice that has never been dealt with.”
Williamson's response to the question on reparations was far from her only memorable moment of the night, despite banking less speaking time than the vast majority of the other candidates.
"If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days," Williamson said with her signature flair in response to a question about race in the U.S.
And in her closing remarks, Williamson left viewers with what might be the most memorable quip of the night: that the U.S. has “sold out to corporate overlords.”
Cover image: Marianne Williamson participates in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)