Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reparations, History, Justice (With UPDATES)

The Atlantic's cover story in their print magazine is from Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The Case For Reparations.

It is a hard look at the centuries of racism that underpinned the history of the United States.  About how it was hard for Blacks in both the rural South and the urban North to find any kind of economic and social equality.

You need to read it.

These are just samples from Mr. Coates:

Perhaps after a serious discussion and debate—the kind that HR 40 proposes—we may find that the country can never fully repay African Americans. But we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion—and that is perhaps what scares us. The idea of reparations is frightening not simply because we might lack the ability to pay. The idea of reparations threatens something much deeper—America’s heritage, history, and standing in the world...


Won’t reparations divide us? Not any more than we are already divided. The wealth gap merely puts a number on something we feel but cannot say—that American prosperity was ill-gotten and selective in its distribution. What is needed is an airing of family secrets, a settling with old ghosts. What is needed is a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt.
What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history...

He's asking for a lot: the rot of racism and the fear/ignorance of the hateful are going to be tough to overcome. But isn't that the whole point of America... to make ourselves - not just as individuals but as communities and the nation as a whole - better? To leave a stronger lasting legacy to our posterity, our children?

We can bail out the banks that crash our economy every ten years or so.  But we can't bail out the impoverished?  We can't bail out the families that have lived in poverty for generations?

UPDATE: Coates has followed up with an Open Thread of sorts to handle any comments on the Reparations article (in order to keep the troll-haters off the main article).  Dunno how long that thread will stay open.  He's followed THAT up with a "how I got here" article describing how reparations became an issue for him to investigate.

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