In Tuesday night's Democratic debate, Marianne Williamson was asked about her stance on reparations—and some are hailing her answer as the best that's been given. In questioning her, Don Lemon stated that Williamson has been "calling for up to $500 billion in financial assistance. What makes you qualified to determine how much is owed in reparations?" How she answered the question, and reaction to her words:
- Her response: "Well, first of all, it’s not $500 billion in financial assistance. It’s a $200 (billion) to $500 billion payment of a debt that is owed. That is what reparations is. ... All that a country is is a collection of people. People heal when there is some deep truth telling. We need to realize 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. That great injustice has to do with the fact there were 250 years of slavery followed by another 100 years of domestic terrorism."
- As for her "qualifications": "I'll tell you what makes me qualified. If you did the math of the 40 acres and a mule, given that there were 4 (million) to 5 million slaves at the end of the Civil War—they were all promised 40 acres and a mule for a family of four. If you did the math today it would be trillions of dollars. And I believe that anything less than $100 billion is an insult, and I believe that $200 (billion) to $500 billion is politically feasible today, because so many Americans realize there is an injustice that continues to form a toxicity underneath the surface."
- At Slate, Aaron Mak finds the response "lucid and powerful ... Williamson’s ability to weave pointed details about the injustices of slavery into a vigorous and principled call for reparations stood out next to the other candidates’ more tepid comments on racism and its historical roots."
- Writing for the New York Times, Nick Corasaniti calls it a "frank response" about an issue "that is rarely discussed by politicians with any specificity."
- At the Cut, Madeleine Aggeler calls her answer "one of the most forceful endorsements of the policy that has ever been seen on a presidential-debate stage."
- Quartz notes Williamson has made the case for reparations for nearly two decades, and quotes lines on the subject from her 2000 book Healing the Soul of America: Reclaiming our Voices as Spiritual Citizens. Among them: "When African Americans say the word 'reparations,' you’d think they had suggested something completely outrageous. But the general concept is legitimate."
- At NBC News, Noah Berlatsky notes that Williamson's debate performance raised eyebrows. "But she's no friend of the left," his headline reads, followed by, "The self-help guru’s supposedly empowering rhetoric masks a mean-spirited individualism that would lead to harmful policies if she were somehow elected." Read his argument here.
- The Washington Post notes Williamson commanded the second-least speaking time of all the debaters, at 8.9 minutes, just edging out last-place finisher John Hickenlooper, who had 8.8 minutes. Still, she managed to be the most Googled candidate in every state except Montana, where fellow debater and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was tops.
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