Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the case for reparations to Congress

Gonna hit the pause button right there.

Fuck White America. Fuck those good upstanding citizens who did nothing as the horrors of slavery raged on. Fuck those good upstanding citizens who looked the other way as white towns made it impossible for black folk to live. Fuck those upstanding citizens who attending lynching picnics and took photos and souvenirs. Fuck those upstanding citizens, who when they saw some black folk had managed to succeed in spite of all the racist policies, decided to burn down black neighbourhoods. Fuck those upstanding citizens who tried to make schooling worse for black kids.

Those “upstanding citizens” exist today, and I will say this: they are fucking monsters who care more about not being called racist than they are concerned that Trump plans to intern MILLIONS of people over circumstance of birth.

Fuck em.

White people deliberately built systems of oppresion. Those systems must be smashed. Injustice must be rectified. If that hurts some white feelings - fuck em. It sure didn’t hurt white feelings to dish out injustice. If white people can’t stand fixing injustice they can fuck right off.





I wouldn’t go so far as to say it has nothing to do with reparations, but I’ll admit (and did admit) it’s probably not quite right either. But yes, part of the intent is to keep white people from feeling butthurt. That may seem stupid, but it’s kind of hard to implement laws and policy that make a large chunk of the electorate feel like shit. Making white people an ally in this is smart politics. It might be as simple as saying “You and I might not be responsible or share the guilt, but wrongs were done and we can set them right.” Appeal to everyone’s better selves instead of their sense of shame. Shame breeds denial, the opposite of what’s needed.

It might be letting white people off easy, but advances the goals.

Edit: “large chunk of the electorate” is my euphemism for majority. I should have been more clear.


As the video notes, it’s not just about slavery, but the system racism that came after, and was built on slavery, too.

And given that we once sent a man to the fucking moon (which included hundreds of thousands of human beings and thousands of companies), the logistical argument just doesn’t wash. It’s not rocket surgery, it’s dealing with a deeply ingrained social problem that do have answers (albeit complicated and difficult ones, but not insurmountable), some of which are floating around on the internet as we type. Probably millions of pages have been published on the issue of slavery and racism in modern America. Millions. I say we look to those words, and figure out what we can do. I don’t think it’s reinventing the wheel here, merely applying the right set of wheels to the problem.

Why not? Having talked to people who are immigrants or the children of immigrants from Africa in more recent years, and they end up dealing with the exact same issues that people whose grandparents or great grandparents were slaves deal with. Because slavery became associated with the construct of “race” that continues to shape America today.

Meh. As a white person, I say fuck wypipo’s feelings - really, who cares? Not this person of the pale persuasion. A part of the argument here is that white Americans (especially the upper classes) have benefited and continue to benefit from free labor of black Americans. Being white, even a poor working class one, confers privileges that black Americans have NOT benefited from.

There are some white people who will see anything that isn’t full on white supremacy as an attack on them. See Mitchell McConnells dumb ass comment about how civil rights legislation and electing a black president was basically reparations… (The more I think about his comment, the more pissed I get). When they are in positions of little or much power (a local cop or a president of the United States), even treating people they see as beneath them with basic human dignity is seen as trampling on their rights. They are not going to help us fix this situation. Catering to their precious feelings is not going to fix shit. Leaving them behind in the dust and building something we can all benefit from and be proud of together WILL fix shit.

I’m not a fan, I see it as basically letting corporations off the hook by putting it all on government. It’s a libertarian solution to inequality that ignores the cleavages in our very complicated class system, which isn’t just about class, but race, gender, sexuality, etc.

We can do both, I think. But rolling out these plans and NOT addressing the specifics of racism in America, which has led to vastly different economic outcomes for black and white communities, will only maintain the economic divide. I’m all for much of the problems you’re supporting (except UBI, perhaps), but there needs to be something more to finally break down the racist structures that we live in today.

We don’t have hyperinflation, for one? The Brown shirts backing dear leader, okay… But maybe I’m confused, are you trying to say that what happened with giving German Jews full equality under the Weimar constitution is the equivalent of pushing for full equality for African Americans and the outcome will be the same?


Hasn’t been hard for hundreds of years. In case you hadn’t noticed, “a large chunk of the electorate” has been getting screwed and disenfranchised quite a bit. Funny how there’s only one chunk we’re so afraid of alienating.



I think it’s helpful to focus on the “repair” aspect of “reparations.” People get hung up on the cash settlement concept and never move past that to think about needed changes to the entire system.

In North Carolina, our state legislature is relatively successful at minimizing the black vote. That needs to be repaired. And it’s going to take federal intervention, because of its very nature.


If the social programme is not specific to African-Americans, it has nothing to do with reparations for African-Americans per se.

Tough. Again, they’re supposed to make people uncomfortable and think about privilege that they’d rather remain blind to. Once one acknowledges that privilege, by the way, it anaesthetises one to the butthurt. In that way, the response to the proposal of reparations is a bit of a Rorschach Test of the true quality and level of one’s concerns over them.

And yet generations of white American politicians had no problem doing that to over 10% of the electorate (at least when they were allowed to vote), in a way that added material injury to mere insult. Which brings us back to…reparations.

Shame also breeds remorse, or at least withdrawing one’s repulsive opinions from the conversation. We don’t really need to hear the racist’s viewpoint on the topic.

The goal is precisely not to let white people off easy. The goal is not about welfare for African-Americans, nor is it about “punishing” white people unfairly by laying down a Carthaginian peace. It’s about what I described above:


All to often democracy is “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” As you noted, it hasn’t worked out to well for what would be the lamb in this analogy. Alienating the wolves doesn’t help the lamb, however much that violates your sense of justice.

Demographics are changing, and the wolves should keep that in mind. But today, right now, 2019, the reality is if you want to get shit done, it’s much harder if you alienate the wolves.

Some Baldwin will do us some good here…


Oh, FFS.
Black people aren’t sheep or helpless “lambs.” We’re people; human beings with agency, god damn it.


If you want to solve the problem then you have to address White America, because White America is the problem. You’re basically saying “fuck the problem”-- that might feel good, but solves nothing.

It matters from a strategic point of view: the reality of building a consensus in a democracy where white people are the overwhelming majority. If a huge majority of Americans were already in favor of reparations it wouldn’t be an issue.

My feelings aren’t hurt, and I’m as white as they come. But I’m not the issue, it’s anyone on the fence that’s the issue, and finding an effective way to get through to them doesn’t include not giving a shit about what they think.


Sometimes, it matters more to do the right thing, and not the popular one. This is one of those things.

Some white people are going to get radicalized by it. Civil rights radicalized some white people. The end of slavery radicalized some white people. If white people are really willing to tear down modern society rather than give up a modicum of comfort to fix our social problems, then we have MUCH bigger problems that aren’t going to be fixed by legislation. This puts our entire modern world in jeopardy and we’re all fucked, unless we’re the few elites.


Dude, sorry. Didn’t mean to offend. I was just trying to use a well know saying about a major failing of democracy to make a point.

I agree, but I think the problem with talking about it in terms of reparations for slavery is that it would only be focused on racism against African Americans, when racism now (and historically) in this country goes far beyond that. Start including asians, latinx, native americans, etc and it starts to look a lot less like reparations for slavery. And then you’ll have people coming out talking about how when the Irish, the Germans, the Italians came to America, they were discriminated against too. So addressing the issues caused by slavery and racism, like economic inequality, seems the way to go. But that’s not reparations for slavery.

No not at all. What I’m suggesting is that imposing financial burdens on “white America” (which presumably would also include middle or upper class people of other races) would result in resentment. I mean, we’re not talking bread-lines for white people here, but start taking money out of people’s paychecks and you’re putting yourself on a path to race riots. As if we weren’t on that path already.

So then the problem doesn’t get solved, and we go down in flames knowing we fought the good fight?

Sorry, if that’s the strategy then I’m not on board.

Sure, but that’s not my concern. My concern is getting more people on board with the idea of reparations, since that’s what will actually get legislation passed. You’re way out ahead, and appear to think it will just pass and screw anyone who doesn’t like it.

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And sometimes doing the right thing is hard; sometimes it hurts.

You have to lance a festering boil and clean it out, before the healing can begin.


Tell us what the sumon bonum is for reparations; give descendants of slaves just compensation for their ancestors work? end racism? end income inequality? or is it to punish white people?

Amazingly, people like being considered people… who knew? /s

That is precisely why African Americans are talking about it. As Coates has noted elsewhere, every other oppressed group is welcome to push for such things themselves, and in fact others have - Japanese Americans for example.

As an Irish American - we left a situation of colonialism and exploitation (and death in the case of the wave of the 1840s) and quickly became “white”. No one has ever looked at me, and made assumptions about me based on my Irish heritage - not a single one. There is literally one person in America who is racist against the Irish, and she runs a Celtic heritage store in Asheville (seriously, look up the Celtic Way and laugh). We’ve not been systemically discriminated against in the same way as African Americans (or Asians, Latinx, etc). Anyone claiming that we have needs to read a history book of Irish Americans.

How is it a “financial burden”? Aren’t you assuming that only white people contribute economically? The ENTIRE POINT Coates has made is that African Americans have had their wealth systemically expropriated by the state for literally centuries!

Except that hasn’t happened yet, and all sorts of corporations have been doing that for decades now. People grumble, but they don’t do shit (except for the very few who do). If we do riot, that’s what we should riot about not this.