Kerry Opposes Slavery Reparations; Vows to Work with Blacks to 'Heal Wounds'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 16, 2004 | Go to article overview

Kerry Opposes Slavery Reparations; Vows to Work with Blacks to 'Heal Wounds'


Byline: Brian DeBose, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

John Kerry yesterday told students at Howard University that he doesn't support financial reparations for blacks, saying it would only divide the nation and "not heal the wounds."

"I personally do not believe that America is going to advance if we go backwards and look to reparations in the way that some people are defining them," Mr. Kerry told Aaron Nelson, 20, a junior political science major, who questioned the Democratic presidential hopeful on his stance.

The senator from Massachusetts said he understood the deep-rooted "scars" blacks still feel in America after slavery, Jim Crow legislation and segregation, but said reparations would divide the nation, not heal wounds.

"When you mention the word slave ... in 2004, it's almost a shocking, unbelievable notion that in this country we wrote slavery into our Constitution before we wrote it out," Mr. Kerry said.

His answer received marked applause from the audience in the reading room of the historically black university's Armour J. Blackburn Center in Northwest.

He also talked about his travels to the South in the 1960s as a student participating in the Mississippi voter-registration drive. The candidate praised Southern states for making great strides to improve race relations, which he said in some ways are outpacing Northern states.

"The South, in fact, has done quite well and deserves credit for transitioning in many ways that the North hasn't," he said. "The North has been reluctant in some ways, and no one gives them credit for that."

To win the presidency, Mr. Kerry will need to win a significant portion of the black voting bloc. In 2000, nearly 90 percent of blacks who voted chose Al Gore, as they did Bill Clinton in both of his presidential wins.

For some civil rights leaders, Mr. Kerry stumbled during an interview with American Urban Radio Networks last month when he said, "President Clinton was often known as the first black president. I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be the second."

That issue wasn't brought up during the town hall meeting yesterday.

A medical student asked the senator about AIDS relief funding to Africa and the Caribbean. …

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