The Case For Reparations

Deep inside one of those lively and far-ranging discussion threads that makes dotCommonweal such a pleasure to read, I made a passing allusion last month to the issue of reparations and promised to come back to the topic.  This post is a fulfillment of---or at least, a downpayment on---that promise.

Ta-Nehisi Coates' cover story for the June issue of The Atlantic is a tour-de-force.  "The Case For Reparations" begins with Clyde Ross---born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1923 and living today in his home in North Lawndale, Chicago---as the reader's guide into Coates' central argument:  that institutionalized racism in the US did not end with slavery in 1865, and was not ever confined to the former Confederate states; and that paying reparations to African-Americans is the only (or best) way for the the nation to settle "our compounding moral debts".

It's the kind of magazine essay that wins awards and---in a better country (or a better moment in this country's life)---changes history.  Coates' masterful research and writing rings a clarion call that should (but probably won't) win a full and fair hearing for Rep. John Conyers' HR 40, A Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.

Consider this an open thread for discussing Coates' superb essay, and the issue of reparations.  (For more from Coates' on this topic see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

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Luke Hill is a writer and community organizer in Boston. He blogs at dotCommonweal and MassCommons. 

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