Beto O'Rourke Vows to Al Sharpton That He Would Create a Reparations Commission

WASHINGTON -- Beto O'Rourke, who caught flak in last year's Senate race for depicting police as part of a new Jim Crow era, reiterated much the same point on Wednesday at a gathering of African American activists, arguing that racial minorities are still treated more harshly in the United States.He also vowed to create a commission to study reparations for descendants of slaves, a stance that went over well at a conference led by the Rev. Al Sharpton."Absolutely I would sign that into law," O'Rourke said when Sharpton asked if he would support a reparations commission bill from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston.Sharpton's National Action Network conference in New York City will attract most of the 2020 Democratic field this week.O'Rourke recalled conversations with Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and activist in Montgomery, Ala., and recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "genius" prize, and creator of a memorial for more than 4,000 lynching victims in the South from 1877 to 1950."He said foundational to reparations is the word repair," O'Rourke said, "and foundational to `repair' is the truth. And until all Americans understand that civil rights are not just those victories [of recent decades] but the injustices that have been visited and continue to be visited on people, we will never get the change that we need to live up to the promise of this country."Fellow Texan Julian Castro will also address the group later Wednesday. He, too, supports the Jackson Lee bill on reparations."If I were president, I would appoint a commission or task force of people from throughout the country that understand this issue, that has had the respect of communities around the nation to listen, to understand and then also to make a proposal to me as president on how we should do reparations," he told Sirius XM on Tuesday. "This should be something that is fairly direct toward the descendants of slaves. ... We're much more likely to heal if it's not just one person's idea, but sort of like the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa, right? It's something that the nation engages in. The process here is just as important as the end result."Most of the Democratic contenders for president agreed to appear at Sharpton's event. Most will speak on Friday, among them Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar; Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Rep. John Delaney of Maryland.On the issue of policing, O'Rourke took a question from Sharpton about police brutality and bias and argued that while individual misdeeds must be addressed, he sees inherent bias in law enforcement.He did not invoke the term "Jim Crow," as he did at one point in the Texas Senate race, speaking at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black school, in September. He was discussing racial profiling, discriminatory stop-and-frisk searches, racially motivated police shootings and discriminatory sentencing, and said they were aptly described as the "new Jim Crow."Sen. Ted Cruz cited the remark to depict his challenger as hostile to police for the remainder of that contest."We support our police officers and our sheriff's deputies. We know that they have an incredibly difficult job," O'Rourke said Wednesday. "They are one part of a larger system--not just of criminal justice in this country. But a system that has successfully suppressed some Americans based on their race for as long as we have been a country."National Action Network, he said, had shown in New York City that whites are far less likely to face run-ins with police for marijuana, even though usage rates aren't much different. "Only some Americans likely to be of color would be stopped and frisked, to be found for possession, go behind bars and endure the consequences. The other Americans would not," he said. "So yes, there must be accountability for the enforcement of the law. There must be accountability for use of force, and federal funds to local police departments and sheriffs departments must be tied to accountability, full transparent reporting for use of force, and justice for those who use force illegally against those citizens whom they are sworn to serve and protect."  Continue reading...

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