Ta-Nehisi Coates on reparations

I’m in the middle of reading this piece by the always awesome Ta-Nehisi Coates on reparations at the Atlantic… As always, it’s thoughtful and full of historical thinking. What do you guys think of his argument?

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I think it might be more productive (and more possible, except in Florida) to address the need for reparations for all the poor people who are currently being abused, scammed, stolen from, etc. That said, as a white guy I don’t think race-based reparations would be harmful, especially when it comes to the more recent racist scamming of minorities by the mortgage industry. Many Americans (mostly white Americans) will get their feelers hurt and they will yell and scream and vote against it and vote against representatives that vote for anything that might be labeled as reparations, but I can’t get excited about opposing the idea, even if it blurs the line between anti-corruption efforts and collective guilt.

But as a practical matter of political reality—and the health of the country—, I think a tighter safety net, universal education, application of anti-trust principles, finally ending our legislatures’ dog-whistling Southern Strategy/War on All Poor People, and aggressively outing racist and other exploitive scamming will do much more than an explicit program of reparations. The scamming and thieving which Coates enumerates took advantage of overt racism in the past to exploit minorities. Now it provides the model for exploiting everyone at the bottom, so to address the past without addressing the present is going to cause problems both politically and practically.

I am very happy that people are willing to broach the subject with intelligence at the national level of the press again, after the Reagan/Rushbo-era backlash against all things Civil Rights-ey.

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Me too. I think if we don’t start having these conversations about race and class (and gender, too), we’re going to be so royally screwed that we won’t know what hit us.

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