Marianne Williamson is, for the most part, a dulcet-voiced vapor of crystals and good vibes that has manifested her way into the 2020 Democratic primaries, where she has served as a welcome distraction from the legions of other shapeless, identikit candidates named Tim or Steve. The campaign of the spiritual adviser and self-proclaimed “bitch for God” has drawn ire for some of her ill-advised statements as well as pseudo-ironic praise, and spawned countless memes and jokes online.
During the Democratic debates on Tuesday night, however, when she was asked by moderator Don Lemon about her stance on reparations, Williamson gave one of the most forceful endorsements of the policy that has ever been seen on a presidential-debate stage.
“Many of your opponents support a commission to study the issue of reparations for slavery,” Lemon began. “But you are calling for up to $500 billion in financial assistance. What makes you qualified to determine how much is owed in reparations?”
Williamson responded by refuting the premise of Lemon’s question, saying, “It’s not $500 billion in ‘financial assistance’ — it’s $200 to $500 billion payment of a debt that is owed.”
She went on to say that the country needed “deep truth-telling” when it came to the issue of race, and that the economic gap between black and white Americans “comes from a great injustice that has never been dealt with.”
“That great injustice has to do with the fact that there was 250 years of slavery, followed by another 100 years of domestic terrorism.”
The $200 billion to $500 billion figure, she went on, came from the Civil War–era promise of reparations in the form of “40 acres and a mule” made to former slaves, multiplied by the number of slaves at the time — between 4 million and 5 million.
Williamson’s answer prompted strong reactions on Twitter.
Not all of her answers were as coherent. There was, at one point, talk of a “dark psychic force.” Still, it was significant to hear a candidate defend such an ambitious policy on the debate stage. Reporter Tina Vasquez probably summed up the experience best, tweeting: “I promise you, I am able to hold it in my brain that Intriguing Space Alien Marianne Williamson is a harmful figure who has done and said shitty things, but is also saying some real shit our country needs to hear.”