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.