'Reparations'

I've looked at this clip a few times where King calls Barack Obama "very urban." I don't think "very urban" is a slur for black. I think the point is that urban politicians aren't interested in rural Americans. In this case, Barack Obama is interested in "rural America" because the farmers are black, and it gives Obama a chance to prosecute his nefarious plot to award slavery reparations:


"We've got to stand up at some point and say, 'We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress,'" he said. "That war's been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there's no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one's filing that claim."

There's a lot wrong here, but let's stick with the obvious. In point of fact, the black farmers suit is about discrimination during the 1980s and 1990s. Moreover, there is no demonstrable movement in the Obama administration, among black legislators, or even among black people to push for damages for slavery. On the contrary, "reparations" is something white populists yell when they want to rally their race-addled base. So for Rush Limbaugh, the way to understand food stamps, unemployment benefits are to "think forced reparations."  For Glenn Beck health care reform is not something that can be debated with facts and figures, but "the beginning of reparations." And so it is with Steve King, that a suit brought to remedy actions taken within the last couple decades, are actually revealed as "slavery reparations."

Some further thoughts: First, Beck and Limbaugh are employing a formula that has proven remarkably successful throughout American history--rallying against social investment because it might actually help a despised minority of the population. The cause of public education in the South, for instance, was long hampered by the notion that, however it might help poor and working whites, it might also help blacks too. 

Second, it's been asserted that this recent tactic by white populists to brand those who protest racism as the actual racists, is some new innovation. In fact, as I've said before, it's a time honored tactic of actual racists. All one need do is read the documents of Civil War secessionists, white supremacist to the core, claiming that the real goal of "Lincolnism" was to make the enslavement of whites. Or read Phillip Dray's At The Hands Of Persons Unknown, where people who collected the fingers, toes and testicles of lynched black men claimed that they were projecting white chastity from black brutes. Rarely does a racist label himself as such. 

Third, this is the same Steve King who recently asserted that Obama "favors the black person." It's also the same Steve King who will chair the House subcommittee on immigration. Elections have consequences.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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