Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke acknowledged Sunday that he, along with his wife Amy, are the descendants of slaveholders.
O’Rourke shared the news on Twitter in the context of how he had been discussing the legacy of slavery in town hall meetings. He wrote that the discussion “now has a much more personal connection. I was recently given documents showing that both Amy and I are descended from people who owned slaves.”
Something that we’ve been talking about in town hall meetings — the legacy of slavery in the United States — now has a much more personal connection. I was recently given documents showing that both Amy and I are descended from people who owned slaves. https://t.co/rGKKLqcoKf
— Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke) July 15, 2019
O’Rourke revealed on Medium that his paternal great-great-great grandfather was the owner of two slaves, Rose and Eliza. The former Texas congressman also wrote that he believes his maternal great-great-great grandfather was also a slaveholder in the 1860s, prior and during the Civil War. (RELATED: Beto O’Rourke: Law Enforcement Is ‘The New Jim Crow’)
He stated that his wife Amy also has an slaveholding ancestor and another who fought for the Confederacy.
O’Rourke, who is white and comes from a wealthy family, has been called “a parody of rich white privilege” because he seems to embody the type of politician that progressives routinely deride and condemn today. He has also been speaking in support of the reparations policy being advanced by some Democrats that would seek to compensate — in varying ways and to varying degrees — the descendants of slavery.
“Yes,” O’Rourke said when asked at a recent campaign stop, if he was in favor of the policy. “We must repair this country from its very founding: kidnapping people from West Africa, bringing them in bondage to literally build the wealth of the United States.”
O’Rourke wrote on Medium that the effects of slavery resonate across centuries.
“Rose and Eliza were denied their freedom and the benefits that their labor produced; they and their children were then denied their civil rights after the end of Reconstruction; and their descendants endured open terrorism, economic exclusion and racism in the form of Jim Crow, lynchings, convict leasing, voter suppression, red lining, predatory lending, and mass incarceration,” he wrote. “Everything their descendants have accomplished in their lives is despite having all of these odds stacked against them.”
While he admits his ancestors were the beneficiaries of “a system … built to favor themselves at the expense of others,” O’Rourke maintains “that 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 repeated his belief that reparations will address alleged racial injustice in America while noting that this policy has to be but one of many aimed at increasing the economic and social integration of blacks. “I will continue to support reparations, beginning with an important national conversation on slavery and racial injustice.”
The Guardian noted that “the number of descendants of slave owners runs in the tens of millions, encompassing people living throughout America.”