“Something that we’ve been thinking about and talking about in town hall meetings and out on the campaign — the legacy of slavery in the United States — now has a much more personal connection,” O’Rourke wrote.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke on Sunday disclosed that he and his wife are both descended from slave owners.
The former congressman from El Paso said the revelation “only increases the urgency I feel to help change this country so that it works for those who have been locked-out of — or locked-up in — this system.”
O’Rourke revealed the information in a post on Medium and in an email to supporters around the same time The Guardian posted a story saying it informed O’Rourke that “abundant documentation exists of his and his wife Amy’s ancestors’ slave-owning and their support for the Confederacy.” O’Rourke told the newspaper that his family knew nothing about the ties until The Guardian contacted him.
In the email, he revealed that he was given documents showing that his paternal great-great-great grandfather had two women, Rose and Eliza, listed as possessions.
“[His ancestors] were able to build wealth on the backs and off the sweat of others, wealth that they would then be able to pass down to their children and their children’s children,” he wrote. “In some way, and in some form, that advantage would pass through to me and my children.”
He added, “Something that we’ve been thinking about and talking about in town hall meetings and out on the campaign — the legacy of slavery in the United States — now has a much more personal connection.”
In addition to his paternal great-great-great-grandfather, he said that it was likely that a maternal great-great-great-grandfather owned slaves in the 1860s. He also wrote that his wife, Amy O’Rourke, had an ancestor who owned slaves and another who was a member of the Confederate army.
“I benefit from a system that my ancestors built to favor themselves at the expense of others,” he wrote. “As a person, as a candidate for the office of the Presidency, I will do everything I can to deliver on this responsibility.”
This isn’t the first time O’Rourke has talked openly about the privilege he enjoys as a married white man. In an appearance on “The View” earlier this year, he acknowledged there are “things that I have been privileged to do in my life that others cannot,” and expressed some regret over a Vanity Fair cover that coincided with his campaign announcement and quoted him as saying he is “just born to be in it.”
In his message Sunday, O’Rourke listed several education, economic, healthcare and criminal justice policy proposals with the aim of aiding people of color, including “police accountability,” expunging arrest records for nonviolent drug crimes, home health visits to women of color to help reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increasing funding to minority-majority public schools. He also said that he would continue to support reparations for African Americans over slavery.
“That those enslaved Americans owned by my ancestors were denied their freedom, denied the ability to amass wealth, denied full civil rights in America after slavery also had long term repercussions for them and their descendants,” he said. “In the aggregate, slavery, its legacy and the ensuing forms of institutionalized racism have produced an America with stark differences in opportunities and outcomes, depending on race.”
Like others in the 2020 field, O’Rourke has grappled with the issue of reparations already this year. His first comments on the issue as a candidate emphasized the need for the country to first have a conversation about racism in its history, and he said at the time that he didn’t believe reparations should be the “primary or initial focus” of that discussion.
He later said as president he would sign into law a bill by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, that would create a commission to study reparations, legislation that has drawn the support of most 2020 contenders, including fellow Texan Julián Castro. More recently, as the Guardian story notes, O’Rourke responded yes when asked by a voter in South Carolina if he supports reparations.
Patrick Svitek contributed reporting.
Mass rallies, crazy decisions, grandiose posturing: This is what living in a dictatorship feels like
Another week of shaking our heads and wondering how much longer we can survive him. Yet again, Donald Trump overwhelmed practically everything with the force of his obscene personality, running his mouth and his thumbs even while he was failing to run the country in any sort of conventional sense. He doesn’t actually do anything, but he dominates everything. Living in America today is like being trapped in a room with him — no doors, no windows, no exits, only Trump and the sound of Trump and the hideous image of Trump, all day, every day, for day after day after day.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Rick Wilson warns ‘Donald Trump is not a well man’ and is now ‘speaking in tongues’
President Donald Trump is mentally unwell, a top strategist explained on MSNBC on Thursday.
"A few 24 hours after a sustained presidential performance that even by Donald Trump’s standard qualified as unhinged and unnerving, the world is reeling and offering a collective judgment of omg and wtf. That is a concise summary of this morning’s headlines," anchor John Heilemann reported.
"To help you grasp the full scope of the presidential meltdown, we offer you this," he said, introducing a clip of Trump.
"This string of absurdities might seem mildly funny at times but to Trump’s own former aides, what they witnessed in recent days crossed the threshold from amusing to alarming," he explained.
Ex-Trump official bashes White House ‘apologists’ who haven’t quit yet: ‘There’s not much hope for them’
A report on the silence coming from first daughter Ivanka Trump and her White House advisor husband Jared Kushner after Donald Trump attacked American Jews turned to the future of White House aides who are either complicit in the president's policies or stand idly by as he lurches from controversy to controversy.
In an interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar, former Trump adviser J.W. Verret pointed out there are still some "adults in the room" with Trump, but CNN's Kaitlan Collins first pointed out that -- as of late -- Ivanka and Kushner are not among them.
"This fits a pattern that we've seen from Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump at times during times when the administration tried to repeal parts of Obamacare, and of course, the big one the president has made about Jewish people who are supporting Democrats," Collins explained. "Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are both Orthodox Jews. They've been involved with the president on many things. but neither of them have said anything publicly about the president's comments. and when we asked the white house have they been advising the president privately on this, the White House did not get back to us."