Who Is Owed Reparations? Larry Elder Argues Slave Owners Whose ‘Legal Property Was Taken Away’

Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder in a news conference with crime victims and law enforcement on Sept. 2, 2021, in Los Angeles.

Larry Elder becomes exasperated when a conversation arises about reparations—that is, whether African Americans are owed some compensation for centuries of slavery. But the Republican gubernatorial candidate in California’s recall election does think a case can be made that slave owners deserve reparations. 

Elder made such comments, which were first flagged by Resist Programming, on a July 18 episode on “The Candace Owens Show,” broadcast on right-wing propaganda outlet PragerU. Elder told Owens that an argument could be made that reparations are owed to “people whose ‘property’ was taken away after the end of the Civil War” because “like it or not, slavery was legal.”

The conversation began when Owens joked that she could support reparations.

“I think I could be pro-reparations,” Owens said. “I think we should allow people the opportunity or the chance to go back to Africa. I would sponsor that like you wouldn’t believe.”

“I don’t think you would have a long line,” Elder said, laughing. 

“This was one of the first countries to ban the slave trade,” Owens added. “I mean Britain was ahead of us. The U.K. was ahead of us. America was just right behind them.” 

“By the way, when you say that the U.K. was ahead of us, they were,” Elder said. “Did you know that the slave owners were compensated? After they lost their ‘property,’ the government compensated slave owners.”

“I didn’t know that. Interesting,” Owens said. 

“Yeah, and so when people talk about reparations, do they really want to have that conversation?” Elder said. “Because like it or not, slavery was legal. And so, their property, their legal property was taken away from them after the Civil War. So, you can make an argument that the people who are owed reparations are not only just Black people but people whose ‘property’ was taken away after the end of the Civil War.”

“And by the way, that’s why there was no war in the U.K. The slave owners got substantial amounts of money,” Elder said, “which is one of the reasons why they didn’t fight a war.”

Apparently Elder is unaware that the U.S. has offered reparations to white slave owners. The Civil War was already underway when President Abraham Lincoln emancipated slaves in Washington, D.C., in 1862 via the District of Columbia Emancipation Act, which granted those slave owners loyal to the Union up to $300 for every slave freed. Formerly enslaved people received nothing.

While the U.S. abolished the transatlantic slave trade in 1808 (a year after the U.K.), it did not abolish the slave trade or slavery throughout the United States until 1865, making it one of the last—not first—countries to do so. The U.K. abolished the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, but gradually ended slavery with legislation passed 23 years later. The British government did indeed pay 20 million pounds to “compensate” slave owners.

Elder’s comments fall in line with others he has made on racism and slavery. According to The Sacramento Bee, the conservative radio host has stated that systemic racism is a lie, blamed rising crime on Black Lives Matter, and claimed that welfare is more harmful to Black families than slavery. He also supports banning “critical race theory”—an academic framework for examining the ways in which systemic racism shapes and influences national and social institutions—in schools.