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Julián Castro on reparations for slavery

March 10, 2019

If elected president, 2020 Democratic contender Julián Castro said he would create a commission to explore the possibility of reparations for slavery.

During a stop Sunday at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Castro did not commit to paying reparations but said it should be part of a topic of conversation for a commission or task force that could explore that and other issues surrounding the nation’s history with slavery.

“I’ve long believed the country should consider reparations because of the atrocity of slavery,” said Castro, a former San Antonio mayor who was President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. “I also believe that we’re never going to fully heal as a country from the racial divide until we’ve addressed the tremendous wrong that was done with slavery.”

Castro, 44, said he’s not about to proclaim what reparations would look like, saying the country needs more than just a politician making a pronouncement.

“The process is going to be just as important as the result,” Castro told hundreds of people at the Moody Theater in Austin, where 10 current and potential presidential candidates took turns addressing the annual festival in a question-and-answer format with various moderators.

Castro’s comments came hours after he was on CNN earlier in the day, questioning why U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a rival for the Democratic Party’s nomination, was not more supportive of the possibility of reparations. On ABC’s The View last week, Sanders said there were better ways to address the issue than “just writing out a check.”

“To my mind, that may or may not be the best way to address it,” Castro said on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper in response to Sanders’ comments. “However, it’s interesting to me that when it comes to Medicare for all, health care, you know, the response there has been we need to write a big check, that when it comes to tuition-free or debt-free college, the answer has been we need to write a big check.”

Castro’s jabs at Sanders come at a time when early polling in Iowa shows Sanders as the clear front-runner among candidates who have already declared to run for the White House.

According to a new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers, 27 percent said Joe Biden, who is not in the race, is their first choice for president. The polls showed 25 percent picked Sanders as their first choice. No other candidate in the race topped 10 percent.

Castro was in 8th place and the first choice of just 1 percent. Fellow Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who has not announced yet if he is running, was the first choice of 5 percent of Iowa caucus-goers in the poll of 401 likely Democratic caucus-goers that was conducted March 3 through March 6.

The Iowa caucuses are the first step in the presidential nomination process. Those caucuses are set for Feb. 3, 2020.

Castro said he’s not sweating being relatively far behind in early polling, and thinks he’s making progress in Iowa and the other early states.

“No question I have plenty of work to do in these early states,” Castro said in an interview after speaking at SXSW. “But I’m going to do the work. One of the ways you can measure candidates is through the amount of traction that they get when they get in front of people. And I can tell I’m going to gain good traction as I get in front of people.”

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