During a campaign rally for Joe Biden in Detroit on Saturday, music legend Stevie Wonder encouraged the crowd to vote for Biden because he would enact slavery reparations.
“I know Joe Biden will do it,” Wonder said. “Give us reparations.”
His statement brought cheers from the crowd and the supportive honks of car horns at the drive-in rally.
“For the work we’ve all done for the last four hundred years – unpaid,” he continued.
Neither Biden nor his running mate Kamala Harris have committed to reparations should they win the election, but they have voiced some openness to the idea.
In June, Biden said he would be in favor of reparations for African Americans and Native Americans if studies were to find the direct payments are feasible.
“If, in fact, there are way to get direct payments for reparations,” he said, “I want to see it.”
Harris has also expressed a willingness to explore the idea, but in 2019 while running for the Democratic presidential nomination, she stated that it has to be about more than writing checks:
“If we’re talking about writing a check, I don’t think it’s that simple. And frankly, I don’t support an idea or a notion that after all this, we’re going to say, ‘Okay, I’m going to write you a check, and then be quiet.’ Because that won’t solve the problem, which is the systemic issues that are present and will continue to exist, whether or not you write a check.”
In 2019, President Trump called the reparations debate “very interesting”, but stated, “I don’t see it happening, no.”
Democrats have introduced bills to the House to explore reparations proposals since 1989. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker co-sponsored a bill in 2019 that would have tasked a commission to study the feasibility of reparations. The bill has not gone anywhere since its introduction.
The reparations conversation has gained new ground after the death of George Floyd in May.
Wonder performed some of his famous hits at the rally, including “Superstition”, as well as his first new songs in 15 years.
One new song, “Can’t Put It in the Hands of Fate”, was inspired by a relationship, but Wonder told the crowd he now sees it in light of the election:
“And then I was thinking about where we are in the world and I was thinking…this craziness is unacceptable. We’re not going for it anymore. Change is right now. We can’t put it in the hands of fate….We can’t put voting in the hands of fate.”