A gaggle of Democratic presidential hopefuls took the stage at Detroit’s Fox Theatre on Tuesday night to face off in the first of two debates, where they sparred over everything from universal health care and climate change, to U.S race relations and public policy.
Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) were the evening’s standout performers, but it was a stirring response from spiritual author Marianne Williamson that made her the most-searched candidate during last night’s debate.
Williamson, who has a not-so-great track record of acknowledging science as fact, was praised for delivering the “clearest and best-argued” answer on the question of if — and how — the U.S. should pay reparations to the descendants of enslaved Blacks. CNN’s Don Lemon introduced the segment on race relations, asking the candidates why they would be the best person to heal America’s racial divide.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke emphasized the need to address hate crimes driven by racist rhetoric, while South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg mentioned the fatal shooting of an African-American man by police in his town and how he tried consoling the community in the aftermath. Warren, who has been vocal in her support for reparations, talked about increased funding for historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.
O’Rourke, 46, then turned the discussion to America’s legacy of slavery, and “pledged to sign into law congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s legislation to set up a commission to consider reparations proposals,” according to Slate. That’s when Williamson, 67, chimed in with her own well-devised plan for doling out upwards from $200 billion to atone for slavery — compensation she said should be viewed as “payment for a debt that is owed,” rather than just financial assistance.
“We need to realize that when it comes to the economic gap between blacks and whites in America, it does come from a great injustice that has never been dealt with,” she said, drawing raucous applause. “That great injustice has to do with the fact there were 250 years of slavery followed by another 100 years of domestic terrorism.”
She continued: “What makes me qualified to say $200 to $500 billion? I’ll tell you what makes me qualified. If you did the math of the 40 acres and a mule, given that there were 4 to 5 million slaves at the end of the Civil War—they were all promised 40 acres and a mule for a family of four. If you did the math today it would be trillions of dollars. And I believe that anything less than $100 billion is an insult, and I believe that $200 to $500 billion is politically feasible today.”
Williamson’s clear and concise breakdown of what reparations would cost made her an instant favorite among Black viewers, who took to social media to voice their support.
“Did @marwilliamson just call slavery and Jim Crow domestic terrorism?!,” actress Yvette Nicole Brown tweeted in admiration. “And did she just break down #Reparations in this here debate? And she didn’t mention the alt-right mess that is #ADOS while doing it? You get points, Marianne! #DemDebate.”
“Marianne Williamson just made a great argument in favor of reparations for Foundational Black Americans at the #DemDebate tonight,” filmmaker Tariq Nashees agreed.
“The black women sitting next to me were screaming @MarWilliamson’s praises during her answer about reparations,” one man wrote. “She’s cutting through the clutter tonight. #DemDebate”
Another wrote: “Marianne just pulled out her calculator on stage and did the math for y’all who still confused about reparations. Add it up Marianne!!”
Watch more in the video below.