The June 2014 issue of The Atlantic is now available online—summarized and provided below for your reference:
Cover Story: The Case for Reparations
“It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.”
In a cover story resulting from nearly two years of reporting, The Atlantic’s national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates writes as only he can about “the moral debt” America has accrued: first for centuries of slavery, then deepened by segregation, discrimination, and blatantly racist housing policies that persist to this day. His focus is Chicago’s West Side, which, he argues, is sinking when compared with the rest of the city.
Coates traces the West Side’s skyrocketing poverty, infant-mortality, unemployment, and homicide rates to the redlining officially mandated by the Federal Housing Administration after World War II. In moving interviews, he documents the predatory loans that were the only choice available to would-be black homeowners in Chicago—and the countermovement, the Contract Buyers League, that sprung up in the late 1960s seeking, in essence, reparations. These were blacks aspiring to the middle class, with salaries that enabled them to pay a mortgage—if U.S. policies permitted them to get a mortgage.
“The Case for Reparations” is a call for us to face this history head-on:
And so we must imagine a new country. Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely … 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.
To pair with the piece, The Atlantic’s Video Channel introduces two short documentaries: The Story of the Contract Buyer’s League, and Lawndale Today. The complete article and videos are at TheAtlantic.com, along with interactive maps illustrating the continuing effects of redlining on Chicago’s population.
Ta-Nehisi Coates will talk about the cover story during an event at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 12. Tickets and more information are available on The Atlantic’s Events Channel.
Fire on the Mountain
In June of 2013, 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters lost their lives battling a fire near Yarnell, Arizona—the highest death toll nationally for firefighters trying to control a wildfire since 1933. This terrible loss, Brian Mockenhaupt writes, should make us question our approach to fighting fire. In an expansive feature, Mockenhaupt weaves together the devastating story of these 19 firefighters with the history and science behind how we battle wildfires. The “put out every fire” method is leaving our forests, communities, and firefighters more vulnerable than ever.
At TheAtlantic.com/Fire, watch an original Atlantic video about the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab, where scientists use wind tunnels, combustion chambers, and fire-whirl generators to study how wildfires start and spread.