Ta-Nehisi Coates on Reparations

I just read “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates… it’s such a well-written, informative piece about what our next steps should be as Americans. It goes deep into our history and highlights specific examples of how we have neglected rights that our Constitution grants. The reading isn’t tough. It moves back and forth through time often, but it feels more like sitting on a rocking chair and being swayed.

I’ve pasted some quotes that shook me. Give the article a read, please. It’s long, but powerful. I must warn you that some images and statements are triggering. Tread thoughtfully.

“It was in these early years that Ross began to understand himself as an American—he did not live under the blind decree of justice, but under the heel of a regime that elevated armed robbery to a governing principle.”

“Then they’d bring in another black family, rinse, and repeat. ‘He loads them up with parents they can’t meet,’ an office secretary told The Chicago Daily News of her boss, the speculator Lou Fushanis, in 1963. ‘Then he takes the property away from them. He’s sold some of the buildings three or four times.'”

“The income gap between black and white households is roughly the same today as it was in 1970. Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, studied children born from 1955 through 1970 and found that 4 percent of whites and 62 percent of blacks across America had been raised in poor neighborhoods. A generation later, the same study showed, virtually nothing had changed. And whereas whites born into affluent neighborhoods tended to remain in affluent neighborhoods, blacks tended to fall out of them.”

“One thread of thinking in the African American community holds that these depressing numbers partially stem from cultural pathologies that can be altered through individual grit and exceptionally good behavior.”

“The kind of trenchant racism to which black people have persistently been subjected can never be defeated by making its victims more respectable. The essence of American racism is disrespect.”

“Whatever the Obama children achieve, it will be evidence of their family’s singular perseverance, not of broad equality.”

Planter: ‘You lazy nigger, I am losing a whole day’s labor by you.’

Freedman: ‘Massa, how many days’ labor have I lost by you?’

“In America there is a strange and powerful belief that if you stab a black person 10 times, the bleeding stops and the healing begins the moment the assailant drops the knife.”

“In a time when telecommunications were primitive and blacks lacked freedom of movement, the parting of black families was a kind of murder. Here we find the roots of American wealth and democracy—in the for-profit destruction of the most important asset available to any people, the family.” – This is particularly striking in that it calls to what Morrison talks about in Paradise, our kinship.

“President Lyndon Johnson may have noted in his historic civil-rights speech at Howard University in 1965 that ‘Negro poverty is not white poverty.’ But his advisers and their successors were, and still are, loath to craft any policy that recognizes the difference.”

“Today Charles Ogletree, the Harvard Law School professor, argues for something broader: a program of job training and public works that takes racial justice as its mission but includes the poor of all races.”

“Black nationalists have always perceived something unmentionable about America that integrationists dare not acknowledge—that white supremacy is not merely the work of hotheaded demagogues, or a matter of false consciousness, but a force so fundamental to America that it is difficult to imagine the country without it.”

“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.”

“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.”

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