Sarah Palin Says the Federal Debt is Akin to Slavery

On Saturday evening, Sarah Palin spoke at a conservative fundraiser in Iowa where she lambasted politicians in Washington, D.C. for accruing debt without formulating a plan to pay it off. She went on to assert that if this pattern continues, we will soon be slaves. She said, "When [our debt] comes due, and this isn't racist … but it's gonna be like slavery … we are gonna be beholden to a foreign master."


Palin clearly missed a history class or two. Having debt is in no way comparable to slavery. To compare the two is, despite Palin's assertions, indeed racist and ignorant.

Slavery has a very particular race-based history in the U.S., and its effects prevail today. The narrative is relatively simple: Europeans trafficked Africans to the Americas, where white masters kept the Africans as property and abused them for centuries. Masters refused to acknowledge a slaves' humanity, and instead treated and worked them like animals.

To compare the national debt to this legacy is to trivialize the long history of anti-black racism that perpetuates injustice to this day.

Furthermore, Palin's comments disregard the fact that slavery still exists. According to a report released by Australia's Walk Free Foundation, there are approximately 29.8 million people held as slaves around the world today. The report estimates that between 57,000 and 63,000 people are held as slaves in the U.S. alone. If Palin were concerned with slavery itself, she would address this reality instead of using the word as a political scare tactic. 

In all, slavery has a modern face, and it doesn't look like the national debt. Until Palin understands that, she would do well not to make racist, unwarranted comparisons to what is perhaps one of the worst forms of institutionalized oppression that has ever existed and continues to wreak hacov on people in the U.S. and across the globe.

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Keith Grubb

A graduate of Harvard College who studied English Literature and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Keith loves thinking about the world through an intersectionally feminist lens. One of these days he will move to D.C., but until then he is spending time reconnecting with friends, family, climbable trees, and cornfields.

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