Reporter's Notebook

Reparations in 2016
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Readers of Ta-Nehisi (specifically his pieces here, here, and here) and Conor (here) discuss the relevance of slavery reparations during the Democratic primaries—as well as that controversial issue more generally.

Show 3 Newer Notes

Would Reparations Drain the Good Will Of White America?

A reader fears that would be the case:

Perhaps I am not familiar enough with the debate, but I rarely see anyone discuss what happens after reparations are made. Speaking as a white person, my experience tells me that, collectively, the quickest way for us to stop caring is to write a check. I don’t necessarily mean this literally, but simply the act of paying a price in exchange for something is a signal that it’s no longer an issue.

When it comes to issues of race, providing reparations would not and could not be the end of the discussion in this nation. Yet I strongly suspect that for the majority of the white population, the conversation would be over. When protests over some mistreatment were to occur post-reparations, it would not slowly win over voters, as is the case with Black Lives Matter. Instead, I think they would be met with unbridled rage. “We paid reparations! We did what you wanted, now any problems are your issue!”

Think about the Native Americans tribes of this country.

A few readers have already voiced criticism over Ta-Nehisi’s take on Bernie and reparations, and there’s more to come. But first, Conor’s contribution to the debate is countered here by Jim Elliott, a long-time reader:

I found Mr. Friedersdorf’s piece disappointing. He, like so many of Coates’s critics, proceeds from what I see as a false premise. I think Coates is being deliberately—and usefully!—provocative in using the term “reparations” because he knows that would-be naysayers will automatically assume this means payment to black folks—a concept so morally, economically, logistically, and demographically fraught that it provokes all kinds of emotional—and therefore honest, reactions.

Ever since first reading “The Case for Reparations,” though, I immediately grokked what I think is a much more interesting, and even more difficult, argument from Coates:

On that question, Ta-Nehisi has written two pieces so far—here and here. A reader responds via hello@:

It is not necessary to debate the merits of reparations to know that black people in the U.S. will be the primary (statistically very over-represented) beneficiaries of any significant class-based redistribution of wealth and income, and therefore that their interests will be vastly better served by a Sanders victory than by that of any other presidential contender.

At this particular historical conjecture, one of the responsibilities of anti-racists is to make those facts known in black America so that black voters might be persuaded to switch their allegiance from Clinton (who offers no hope for a change in the status quo) to Sanders (who calls for a political revolution that will transfer wealth and power from those at the top to those at the bottom).

Unfortunately, Coates, in attacking Sanders, undermines that effort and thereby objectively works against the empowerment and enrichment of black Americans that would result from the political revolution for which Sanders is calling.

Another reader also thinks any talk of reparations from Sanders would be deeply counterproductive to his goals of social justice:

I really like Coates, and like many people, consider him an invaluable voice on race in America. I’m struggling with his views on Sanders, though.