On Thursday, I was at Cornell making the case for reparations. I've never written anything that has garnered this much attention, and I confess some bewilderment at the response. Yesterday there were people sitting in the aisles, people standing outside the room, people sitting in windows, people outside of windows listening. I've been writing professionally for most of my adult life. I've done this because I love the act of writing, which is to say I love the act of discovery, of revelation, and then the attempt to share that revelation in all its fullness and clarity.
You can never be sure how many people will want to share in that feeling. And so I have found that it is best to not think too much about the ranks of one's readers, one's prominence or profile. The reasons to write were my own when I commenced 20 years ago, as a young poet, and they remain mine today as a not-so-young journalist. And yet sometimes you look up and there are people listening, and if not in large numbers, then in larger numbers than anything you ever imagined. You can never be sure quite why. No matter. This too, redounds.
The greatest boon of "The Case for Reparations" is that it has put me in conversation with some of the best minds of my generation, the generations preceding, and the generations following. My favorite portion of these talks, is after the speech when I get to listen to the audience, the small private lunches with students, or the dinners with academics. And so it was yesterday when I found myself listening, within a few short hours, to arguments for, and against, a binational Israel, then a short treatise on the history of black satire in America, and finally the possibility of reparations in a capitalist economy. In this sense, I felt myself back at home, back at Howard, out on the Yard, debating with the brothers and sisters, and catching up on the doings of various radicals, nationalists, and professed social democrats.