Print Story The Case for Reparations
Media
By wiredog (Thu May 22, 2014 at 08:19:57 AM EST) (all tags)
The Case for Reparations
Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
by Ta-Nehisi Coates


This is an amazing piece of work. Both as a piece of writing (Pulitzer level) and the technical aspect. Because that, too, is amazing. The mobile version (Chrome on a Nexus 5) works. Seriously, it's just as good, and as interactive as the full version (Firefox on Windows 7) is. That is so rare. Offhand, I can't think of any other website I frequent that pulls off this level of scaling. I've seen a lot of writing on responsive web design, but few (if any) good real world examples.

Some thoughts:

  • One. Read it all the way through before you comment (anywhere) on it. It's a powerful piece of writing, but mostly a history piece. Take a look at the blog posts and articles linked in it.
  • Two. The Atlantic should get some sort of award for the design of the article. In the dead tree version and especially the online version. The online version is a great demonstration of the sort of enhancements you can do online. Maps, links to blogs, links to earlier articles on the same topic. It really enriches the experience.
  • Three. James Fallows adds an interesting international perspective, I supect other Atlantic writers will chime in too.
Update [2014-5-22 18:22:37 by wiredog]:

TThis blog post describes some of the background. People like me, who've been reading his work for a few years know most of the history he discusses, but there's lots of bits and pieces of background that need to be thought about. TNC, quoting another author:

In 1860, slaves represented about 16 percent of the total household assets—that is, all the wealth—in the entire country, which in today’s terms is a stunning $10 trillion.
So that's $10,000,000,000,000 stolen from african americans (via their enslavement) and transferred to the rest of the country. Call it a floor figure for what's owed. So, clearly, "reparations" won't be cash.

From Google:
Reparations: The making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged.

< Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday | Please Pump Me Op >
The Case for Reparations | 29 comments (29 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
I should make twelve_year_old read it by georgeha (4.00 / 2) #1 Thu May 22, 2014 at 08:59:19 AM EST
She's currently in the non-Honors track, due to test anxiety. She's getting mostly A+s, so we expect her to go into Honors, or the track between Honors and non-Honors.

But she's concerned, often she's the only white kid in her classes, and she's okay with that. Honors is mostly white, and she's curious as to why.

Institutionalized racism is the best I could come up with.


Tl;DR by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #5 Thu May 22, 2014 at 12:36:23 PM EST
I mean, I can read a wall of text, but if it's extensively x-ref and linky-link to all this ancillary stuff, man, I got shit to do.

[ Parent ]
If your managers bug you for wasting time by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #6 Thu May 22, 2014 at 12:42:21 PM EST
go to HR!


[ Parent ]
Reparations by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #2 Thu May 22, 2014 at 11:44:15 AM EST
Only the day after Native Americans get their reparations.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
Also by riceowlguy (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu May 22, 2014 at 11:54:18 AM EST
when France pays Wales back for England...

[ Parent ]
FFS by R343L (4.00 / 1) #4 Thu May 22, 2014 at 12:16:13 PM EST
I can't tell if you're being snarky or not. If you're just making a sarcastic comment about how lots of folks will actually respond then fine. If you seriously think that's a good response comment, then did you even read the piece?

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot
[ Parent ]
He's being snarky by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu May 22, 2014 at 12:53:44 PM EST
But I'm somewhat serious.  Native Americans are the forgotten minority.  They are still being screwed, and in their case, they had actual legal agreements with the US Government that the government later breached.

I'm not saying African Americans have no case.  They certainly do.  I'm saying that Native Americans have a much better one.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
The Native Americans by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu May 22, 2014 at 01:02:19 PM EST
Have a different case. One that's just as powerful. But it's hard to say they were hurt more. Or less.

The TNC group on FaceBook has been talking about this for several days now.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
The case is more clear by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #10 Thu May 22, 2014 at 01:38:37 PM EST
For instance, the Sioux had actual treaties giving them sole ownership of the Black Hills of South Dakota.  The government then reneged on that treaty.  That's very clear cut, much more clear cut than the losses suffered by African Americans.

The trouble is that Native Americans have no public voice, and so get ignored.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
I agree that the first peoples have a good case by lm (4.00 / 1) #20 Fri May 23, 2014 at 10:15:49 PM EST
But the comment that breach of a treaty is a more clear cut case than chattel slavery seems tone deaf at the very best to me.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
pretty controversial assertion. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #16 Fri May 23, 2014 at 01:48:01 AM EST
people presumably disagree about whether being death marched across the country until you're dead is better or worse than what was quite possibly the worst sort of bondage ever seen in human history, but my impression is that the african slaves significantly outnumbered the native americans who actually came into contact with the united states or its colonial forebears. most were killed by exotic (i.e. european) disease early in the sixteenth century.

[ Parent ]
Well by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #17 Fri May 23, 2014 at 12:26:12 PM EST
You could look at it as a civil case:

Case 1: Plaintiff produces real estate document stating ownership of the "Black Hills", demands defendant vacate property.

Case 2: Plaintiff sues for recompense for forced labor at the hands of the defendants ancestors.

Which case is more slam-dunk?
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
I don't know why I'm doing this by nathan (2.50 / 2) #18 Fri May 23, 2014 at 05:05:29 PM EST
the worst sort of bondage ever seen in human history,
IDK, man, slavery in French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies seems to have been way worse considering that most of the Spanish, etc. slaves died of overwork under the overseer's lash. (The life expectancy of a newly imported slave in St. Domingue was 5-7 years). As a consequence, non-Anglo colonies in the Americas imported around 10 times as many total slaves as the USA did.

Roman slavery varied widely, but most of our pop impression of it comes from the urban familial servant classes. They were valuable and privileged and lived totally different lives from agricultural slaves on latifundia, and the latifundium sounds pretty grim (laboring slaves were, in various times, and places, kept in ergastula when not chained to pillars or something). Suicide among slaves was very common and entire nations were enslaved wholesale.

The Ottomans routinely castrated male slaves, but they were certainly more of a mixed bag because of the routine use of slave soldiers and the legitimacy of the children of slave concubines. Such relatively happy outcomes weren't typical of the Middle Eastern or North African slave experience; for a more typical slave experience, see e.g. G. Milton, which draws heavily on accounts by Europeans enslaved in North Africa for first-person descriptions of how North African slaves were treated by North African potentates. Milton's sources report that summary execution and death through overwork were very common and led to a high demand for new slaves.

None of this is to excuse American slavery, which is of course a permanent blot on humanity and on America. I just think it's worth remembering that it's a relatively small part of the story of slavery generally. It's the part that's most relevant to American life, of course, and it's the part for which Americans should get around to making some amends at some point.

I also think that focusing on slavery risks distracting us from Jim Crow and segregation, which are probably more directly relevant to modern American problems and much less discussed. Slavery is 150 years in the past, but there are plenty of people alive today, some of them not all that old, who have been directly, personally hurt by legal segregation or by illegal but tolerated housing discrimination or w/e. That was the part of the article that really worked for me.



[ Parent ]
fair enough. by the mariner (2.00 / 0) #19 Fri May 23, 2014 at 09:44:10 PM EST
particularly, agreed re: last paragraph. america would be a very different place if schools taught the civil rights movement against the backdrop of contract buying, housing discrimination, and post-reconstruction southern agriculture, as opposed to slavery, segregated water fountains, and sitting at the back of the bus.

[ Parent ]
i hesitated for a long time before hitting 'post' by nathan (4.00 / 3) #21 Fri May 23, 2014 at 10:18:34 PM EST
B/c who wants to sound like the guy defending slavery? I think that contextualizing American slavery shouldn't minimize it, justify it, excuse it or relativize it. (1) We hold ourselves to a higher standard than other societies in which slaveholding was normal, (2) slavery was a social necessity in the ancient Near East in a way that it just wasn't in the 19th century, (3) slavery on an industrial scale was turning into something was uglier than it had been before the cotton gin, so it would have gotten even more evil if it hadn't been stopped, etc. No excuses.

The sole reason I want to put it in context, and that I intend to put it in context in my own kids' educations, is that some people seem to get the false impression that American slavery was more cruel and evil than other slaveries. As a result, you see hysterical denunciations of, e.g., America that you don't see of, e.g., Portugal, the Ottomans, etc. The depressing thing about the antebellum South is not that it was more evil than other slaveholding societies, but that it put American society in a position of equivalence with slaveholding societies and set the stage for many more generations of oppression after it was beaten. That's enough evil for America to feel permanent contrition, but not so much for Americans to feel that they are evil in a way that other countries aren't.

I also think it would, in a strange way, be good for black Americans to have a sense that other peoples have come up from slavery and even reached a position of equality with or superiority to their erstwhile masters. E.g., I don't think many Hungarians today feel inferior to Turks, even though hundreds of thousands of Hungarian boys were dragged off before puberty to be castrated or enlisted and hundreds of thousands of Hungarian girls were dragged off to rape dungeons. The best revenge is living well.


[ Parent ]
Somewhat snarky, somewhat serious by riceowlguy (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu May 22, 2014 at 01:13:44 PM EST
My comment was more in response to the parent comment, and was an echo of one of my favorite Moldbug quotes: "There is no rule that says the Palestinians should get Israel back that doesn't also imply the Welsh should get London back."  Which should illustrate the problems associated with attempting to go back into the past and restore property to its rightful owners.

I did read the piece.  Not thoroughly, as I didn't have two hours.  What, exactly, would a good response comment look like, in your opinion?

It seem that what Coates wants more than money is for America to feel bad about itself.  It might actually be easier to just pay money.

[ Parent ]
What he wants by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #11 Thu May 22, 2014 at 02:22:40 PM EST
Is for black America to feel good about itself. I'm not sure if your thoughts about his wanting America to feel bad about itself took account of the fact that Ta-Nehisi is himself American.

But yes, Wales does get European Social Fund money from (amongst others) France, precisely because of its relative poverty, arguably due its being predominantly ruled from London.

[ Parent ]
and for White America to stop blaming by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #12 Thu May 22, 2014 at 02:30:57 PM EST
Black America for their situation.


[ Parent ]
Moldbug?! Dear Lord. by gzt (4.00 / 1) #13 Thu May 22, 2014 at 05:05:00 PM EST
People typically don't say Palestinians should get Israel back.

But if they do, please note that some of the individuals expropriated in that case are still alive today. And individuals benefiting from that initial expropriation are still alive today. It's not sons of sons or centuries ago - though it would still be worth discussing if it were in some sense - it's the very individuals it happened to.

Ditto in the case of people discriminated against in the 60s and 70s and individuals - and ditto the individuals directly benefiting.

Of course, not that the Civil War is actually that far off - TWO of Zachary Tyler's grandsons are apparently still alive.

[ Parent ]
ol' Zach was the original Mack Daddy. by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #15 Thu May 22, 2014 at 10:02:53 PM EST


--
I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR BALLS! ->clock
[ Parent ]
I heard a bit of an interview with Coates on NPR by lm (4.00 / 2) #22 Fri May 23, 2014 at 10:21:17 PM EST
I didn't hear the whole thing and I didn't read his article. But when asked what his designs were, his response was that he wanted a conversation where people were taking the effects of systemic discrimination seriously.

I don't think he really cares if America feels bad about itself. But he does want the discussion about race to move past the personal (I have black friends so I can't be racist) to the institutional and systemic (what are the reasons that black children do so much worse in school). The US is really good at the personal discussion and really bad at the institutional/systemic discussion.

Personally, I thin that TNC is a bit misguided. IMO, the real problem is one of class and wealth distribution. It just so happens that race is a marker for poverty in that discussion.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Moldbug? Really? by Gedvondur (4.00 / 2) #23 Mon May 26, 2014 at 10:38:59 PM EST
Are you that far gone into crazy?


[ Parent ]
I've brought his stuff up before by riceowlguy (4.00 / 1) #24 Tue May 27, 2014 at 02:20:18 PM EST
and hadn't gotten much of a reaction.  Just random luck, or was he just unknown before and people didn't bother following the links?

I find a good portion of his writing to be entertaining.  I find some of his writing to be usefully thought-provoking, e.g. the stuff about received belief systems, the relationship between the media, the public school/university system and the government.  And his stuff about money and the financial system is pretty good, although oversimplified and somewhat flawed.  I've also never made any serious attempt to fact-check any of the claims he makes about things of which I have no knowledge, and in some cases where I do have knowledge, that knowledge at least partially contradicts the claim (e.g. his claim that the cause of the 2008 financial crisis was entirely caused by the Community Reinvestment Act - other, more mainstream claims that historically low Fed interest rates drove long-term investments out of T-bills and into RMBS and CDO products make just as much or more sense to me).  But the discussion of maturity transformation is, overall, great.

I similarly find a good portion of his writing to be pretty abhorrent.  You can't sing Larry Auster's praises, for anything, and not be painted with a scarlet R.  I would like to take people at face value but it's hard not to assume, based on things here and there, that MM is just as truly, deeply, hardcore prejudiced against, as he puts it, "non-Asian minorities".  He's just a lot more cryptic about it than Larry Auster was.  So on that point alone I realize I should perhaps just give up trying to sample some of the other stuff.  On the other hand, most people would say that the Bible has some good ideas in it, along with a lot of really lousy ones about stoning people and not eating bacon.

I've noticed, and other people who attempt to distill MM's writings have also pointed out that it is really hard sometimes to tell when he is just saying something as offensive as possible in order to bait the left (actually, bait anybody within and even a couple standard deviations away from the center of the modern political Overton Window on any of a half-dozen topics), and when he actually believes something.

So, in order to answer your question, I suppose I'd have to ask which specific crazy parts of MM's worldview you were wondering if I subscribed to.  For the record, no, I don't think democracy is the cause of all the world problems, or that the best way forward would be a return to 1750's style hereditary monarchy.

[ Parent ]
Heh by Gedvondur (4.00 / 1) #25 Tue May 27, 2014 at 03:33:57 PM EST
Those last two were the salient ones.  The rest we can are up for discussion. :-)


[ Parent ]
Re whose in line by R343L (2.00 / 0) #26 Thu May 29, 2014 at 01:46:03 AM EST
See this buzzfeed interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot
[ Parent ]
Yes, that's the normal response by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #27 Thu May 29, 2014 at 11:50:33 AM EST
But it doesn't really help a people currently experiencing the most grinding poverty in the US that "somebody" should make their case for them.  So, therefore, I am making their case.

I have no problem with Coates' case.  But while the issues of racism against former slaves is at the forefront of discussion on the public stage, the plight of the original residents, who had their lands stolen at gunpoint, is generally ignored as an afterthought even by those activists who fight for racial redress.  Having seen the conditions first hand as a child and having read so much about the histories of these peoples, it is something that angers me greatly.

No one fights for them.  They've got no columnists in fashionable liberal magazines to make their case.  They just continue living lives that end at 50 having less money to feed their children in a year than you or I likely make in a month.

But yeah, Coates is right.  Somebody ought to come along and make their case.  (As long as he doesn't disrupt the argument about more fashionable minorities.)   I guess it's nice that at least they got a sentence in three page interview.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
vodd by R343L (2.00 / 0) #28 Thu May 29, 2014 at 10:41:40 PM EST
You did basically dismiss the piece with snark about their being a line and native peoples come first. I can hardly blame TNC for caring about his case which has dominated his life. That he has a huge platform to talk about it is because he worked his ass off (and presumably also had some luck.) He can't be expected to care about all things.

IOW, improvements have to start somewhere and I can't imagine a serious public conversation about the foundational nature of black oppression in America would not ultimately also discuss native oppression.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

[ Parent ]
Reason for the snark by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #29 Fri May 30, 2014 at 12:39:47 PM EST
...is that it always seems to be expressed as there being a line, and that Native Americans need to be in the back of it.

(Essentially your last sentence.)

---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Won't somebody by gmd (1.00 / 3) #14 Thu May 22, 2014 at 07:07:05 PM EST
 Think about the whites for a change?

--
gmd - HuSi's second most dimwitted overprivileged user.
The Case for Reparations | 29 comments (29 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback