White House adviser Cedric Richmond said it is “doable” for President Biden to make progress in his first term to break down barriers for people of color, as the administration supports a study on potential reparations for Black Americans.
Richmond, during an interview with Axios, said “we have to start breaking down systemic racism and barriers that have held people of color back and especially African Americans.”
“We have to do stuff now,” Richmond said.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said he supported the creation of a commission to study proposals for reparations.
“I think that [creation of a commission] will pass,” Richmond told Axios, adding that the timeline for the commission is not yet known. But he said, “If you start talking about free college tuition to [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] and you start talking about free community college in Title I and all of those things, I think that you are well on your way.”
Richmond pointed to President Biden’s executive action, “breaking down barriers in housing, making sure that African Americans can pass down wealth through homeownership, that their homes are not valued less than homes in different communities just because of the neighborhood it’s in.
“We don’t want to wait on a study,” he said. “We’re going to start acting now.”
Last month, a House panel heard testimony on legislation that would create a commission to examine the history of slavery in the U.S. as well as the discriminatory government policies that affected former slaves and their descendants.
The commission would recommend ways to educate the American public of its findings and suggest appropriate remedies, including financial payments from the government to compensate descendants of slaves for years of unpaid labor by their ancestors
Bills regarding reparations have been introduced to Congress for over three decades, with the most recent being a proposal from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.
Jackson Lee introduced H.R. 40 to the House of Representatives, which aims to set up the Committee to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. According to the bill’s summary, the committee “shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.”
Biden backs the idea of studying the issue, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday, though she stopped short of saying he would sign the bill if it clears Congress.
“He certainly would support a study of reparations,” Psaki said at the White House briefing. “He understands we don’t need a study to take action right now on systemic racism, so he wants to take actions within his own government in the meantime.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.