The conservative activist Candace Owens said the lives of black Americans were on an upward trajectory during the century that followed the abolition of slavery in 1865, but they were sent “down, down, down” again because of welfare, which “socialized our community.”
Owens, founder of the “Blexit” movement, made the comments on Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s show Tuesday night during a debate with Harvard philosophy professor Dr. Cornel West.
The two sparred over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent and socialist standing in the Democratic Party’s 2020 primary for the presidential nomination, who West supports.
“Yes, he is a more enthusiastic character than Joe Biden,” Owens said of Sanders, comparing him to the front-running former vice-president, who is also standing in the 2020 primary, “but he’s talking about socialism, and we know that that is something that has…absolutely destroyed and decimated the black community. Socialist policies like in terms of the welfare.”
West replied: “I would argue that welfare…was not socialist, it was an attempt to intervene given the failure of capitalism to provide jobs or a living wage for people. It was not socialistic at all. That’s not socialism.”
Owens hit back, insisting that welfare is socialist.
“One hundred years after slavery, the black community was doing better. We were going up, up, up. Then, suddenly, they socialized our community via welfare policies and the black community started going down, down, down,” Owens claimed.
“And you’re sitting here supporting a candidate who is advocating for making that on a larger scale. He’s saying we’re not just going to do it to the black community, we’re going to do it to every community in America.
“You know his policies do not work. You know that socialism has led to more deaths than anything else in the last 100 years. One hundred million deaths and you stand behind this man. You should not.
“You need to stand behind [President] Trump because he is…standing next to poor people and making poor people richer are two different things.”
West cited a number of important African American thinkers and activists from the nation’s history, and said Sanders following on from their work.
“The very fact that you have been able to aspire and achieve the level that you have based on the struggle of those who came before, from W. E. B du Bois, from Ida B. Wells, to Frederick Douglass. They were not concerned with isms, they were concerned with justice and fairness,” West said.
“Now, du Bois was a socialist, but…he wasn’t pro welfare, so you got to get your history right, my dear sister…Bernie Sanders is part of that legacy, sister Candace, that’s what I’m trying to get you to see.”
Owens said: “We’re talking about Bernie Sanders. We don’t have to talk about history. We’re talking about [the] present. We’re talking about Bernie Sanders and what he’s offering to the black community, which is awful.”
West said socialism is not, and has nothing to do with, welfare.
“It’s about fairness, jobs with a living wage, it has to do with workers controlling [in] some sense at the workplace. We’ve got to quit spreading these lies, quit spreading these lies about what socialism is, I’m telling you,” the professor said.