Posted by William A. Jacobson ▪
Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 5:55pm
The 15,000+ word essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic, The Case for Reparations, is getting completely predictable reactions.
It’s looooong, which gives it a perceived weight which just is not there.
In fact, there’s not much new there, except for historical anecdotes shedding detail but not light on what we already knew to be the history of slavery, segregation and discrimination:
… the crime with which reparations activists charge the country implicates more than just a few towns or corporations. The crime indicts the American people themselves, at every level, and in nearly every configuration. A crime that implicates the entire American people deserves its hearing in the legislative body that represents them.
…. No one can know what would come out of such a debate. Perhaps no number can fully capture the multi-century plunder of black people in America. Perhaps the number is so large that it can’t be imagined, let alone calculated and dispensed. But I believe that wrestling publicly with these questions matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.
Coates never gives the answer as to who gets what and how.
And that’s ultimately the problem with reparations arguments that are not based upon the people causing the harm paying the people directly harmed by specific conduct soon after the conduct is remedied.