Democratic 2020 hopeful Beto O’Rourke admitted on Sunday that he and his wife, Amy, are descended from slave owners.
O’Rourke wrote in a Medium post that he was recently given documents proving that his paternal great-great-great grandfather listed two women, Rose and Eliza, as his possessions.
“That those enslaved Americans owned by my ancestors were denied their freedom, denied the ability to amass wealth, denied full civil rights in America after slavery also had long term repercussions for them and their descendants,” O’Rourke wrote.
“I benefit from a system that my ancestors built to favor themselves at the expense of others,” he added.
“We all need to know our own story as it relates to the national story, much as I am learning mine. It is only then, I believe, that we can take the necessary steps to repair the damage done and stop visiting this injustice on the generations that follow ours.”
Thehill.com reports: O’Rourke said the benefits he has gotten from slavery and the “ensuing forms of institutionalized racism” give him a responsibility to change the country.
The White House hopeful outlined several of his policy promises, including addressing underfunding for minority-majority public schools, giving federal capital to minority and women owned businesses, universal healthcare and criminal justice reform, in the context of addressing the legacy of slavery.
O’Rourke stressed that he will continue to support reparations for the descendants of slaves, “beginning with an important national conversation on slavery and racial injustice.”
The debate over reparations re-entered mainstream political discourse after the House Judiciary Committee held the first hearing on the issue in a decade in June.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) to form a commission to study whether black Americans should receive reparations for slavery has been gaining steam in the House, with many 2020 hopefuls endorsing the move.
O’Rourke has previously said that all Americans must understand the country’s history before the U.S. can pursue cash reparations.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has roundly opposed the initiative.
Following his opposition to reparations, a report from NBC News found McConnell’s ancestors owned a total of more than a dozen slaves.
In response, McConnell said it put him in the same camp as former President Obama.
“You know, I find myself once again in the same position as President Obama. We both oppose reparations, and we both are the descendants of slaveholders,” McConnell told reporters.