In a recent meeting with the 2020 South Carolina Black Media Coalition, presidential hopeful Tom Steyer said, “if elected President, I would apologize for slavery.” This makes him the first candidate to take the bold step of committing to extend a formal apology for slavery as President of the United States.
Throughout U.S. history, there have been several instances where a formal apology was issued in regard to some of our nation’s most egregious actions.
The most significant formal U.S. apologies include the 1988 Civil Liberties Act which was signed by President Ronald Reagan and offered every Japanese-American interned in the camps during the war a formal apology and $20,000 in compensation as well as President Bill Clinton’s 1997 formal apology for the U.S. government’s role in the horrific Tuskegee experiments.
Yet, to date, no President has extended an apology for slavery and it’s lasting damage on Black Americans and their communities. The U.S. House of Representatives issued a formal apology for slavery and Jim Crow in 2008 but the office of the President has remained mute on the issue.
This makes Tom Steyer’s willingness to issue an apology for slavery particularly impactful especially as it comes in addition to his commitment to support reparations.
The question of an apology came up during the Charleston meeting when I asked him why black voters should vote for him. Steyer was adamant that his candidacy is about recognizing the needs of all Americans and working collaboratively to meet those needs. He noted that his success as a businessman and as a philanthropist has largely been dependent on creative problem solving and being inclusive in his approach to getting things done.
Steyer proved himself to be a knowledgeable candidate who has studied many of the issues that are most pressing for black voters and for Americans as a whole. So, it is unsurprising that he is beginning to receive endorsements from across the state.
Most recently, he picked up the endorsement of a key lawmaker with State Representative Jerry Govan, Chairman of South Carolina’s Legislative Black Caucus, voicing his support for Tom Steyer and signing on as a senior adviser.
Govan is a well-respected voice in the black community and members of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus are highly sought-after to offer their endorsements for presidential candidates.
In a state where the majority of the Democratic primary electorate is African American, candidates for Democratic presidential nomination are crisscrossing South Carolina as they compete to stand out in the minds of black voters. Tom Steyer is well aware of that fact and seems to know that the issues most critical to black voters are too important to ignore.