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Sen. Kamala Harris On Reparations


One of the Democratic presidential candidates is floating an idea. It's a way to pay reparations for slavery and racial discrimination. Several candidates have endorsed that notion, although they're rarely giving specifics. Senator Kamala Harris also says the matter needs study. But in a talk with NPR, she did suggest what's on her mind.

Can you give me an idea of one possible form this could take?

KAMALA HARRIS: Sure. You can look at the issue of untreated and undiagnosed trauma. African-Americans have higher rates of heart disease and high blood pressure. It is environmental. It is centuries of slavery, which was a form of violence where women were raped, where children were taken from their parents - violence associated with slavery. And that never - there was never any real intervention to break up what had been generations of people experiencing the highest forms of trauma. And trauma, undiagnosed and untreated, leads to physiological outcomes.

INSKEEP: We're talking about the same thing as post-traumatic stress from a war.


INSKEEP: That's the kind of thing we're talking about.

HARRIS: Absolutely. But listen; when - unless there's intervention done, it will appear to be, perhaps, generational. But it's generational only because the environment has not experienced a significant enough change to reverse the symptoms. You need to put resources and direct resources - extra resources - into those communities that have experienced that trauma.

INSKEEP: Reparations could...

HARRIS: So that's an example, in my mind...

INSKEEP: Reparations could be mental health treatment for African-Americans, hypothetically.

HARRIS: I think reparations - yeah. I think that the word, the term reparations, it means different things to different people. But what I mean by it is that we need to study the effects of generations of discrimination and institutional racism and determine what can be done, in terms of intervention, to correct course.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.