The Details Matter: On Ta-Nehisi Coates and Reparations

The attention Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay on reparations has received is remarkable and welcome. But like most of the folks he’s directly appealing to—educated, mainstream liberals who read The Atlantic—I approached his essay skeptically, assuming reparations was an impractical, even irresponsible way to redress the crimes of slavery and the way its legacy, racism, continues to disadvantage all African Americans today. But by the end of it, I was convinced. A major reason why is because by reparations Coates, or at least the leading advocates for reparations he quotes in approval, aren’t arguing for simple payouts to African Americans. Coates knows too well that, lacking a more rigorous understanding of our nation’s history with slavery, and the continuing problems of institutionalized racism, cash payouts risk becoming little more than “hush-money.” Continue reading

Slavery and Reparations: A Voice from Barbados and a Report from Ghana

atlanticYou’ve probably heard about Ta-Nehisi Coates’s powerful Atlantic cover essay, “The Case for Reparations,” which appeared two weeks ago and has ignited a nationwide political conversation about the legacy of slavery and racial oppression in the United States. The level of debate among Coates’s many academic admirers and critics—including political commentators on both the Left and the Right—has been very high. Continue reading