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The case for reparations to blacks

Tom Jackson • May 23, 2014 at 5:23 PM

If you have any interest in American history, or provocative ideas,  I urge you to take time to read Ta-Nehisi Coates new article, "The Case for Reparations."

Coates' piece argues that given the amount of damage done to blacks over the decades by a racist power structure, an honest discussion about possible reparations is the only way to clear the air. 

Here are a couple of interesting paragraphs:

Broach the topic of reparations today and a barrage of questions inevitably follows: Who will be paid? How much will they be paid? Who will pay? But if the practicalities, not the justice, of reparations are the true sticking point, there has for some time been the beginnings of a solution. For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr., who represents the Detroit area, has marked every session of Congress by introducing a bill calling for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for “appropriate remedies.”

A country curious about how reparations might actually work has an easy solution in Conyers’s bill, now called HR 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. We would support this bill, submit the question to study, and then assess the possible solutions. But we are not interested.


I'm not necessarily the kind of person you'd expect to recommend this article. I am fed up with seeing every possible criticism of Barack Obama dismissed as "racism." (Some of the criticisms may be racist, but not all of them are.) Exhortations to "check your privilege" leave me unmoved. Pastor Darden's playing of the race card in the firing of Nicole Ard did not impress me. 


But it also seems naive and dishonest to insist that history has ended, to claim that slavery and racism left no mark on the present day. Coates makes a powerful case. I don't agree with everything he wrote, but he is forcing me to think.  I urge you not to simply react to the word "reparations" but to read what he actually has to say. 


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