The piece below, published in the mainstream magazine The Atlantic, makes a historical, dramatic, and clear case for reparations. Ta-Nehisi Coates lays down not just the economic case, but the human, emotional, social, psychological aspects of what has been stolen from African Americans over the course of, "250 years of slavery, 90 years of Jim Crow, 60 years of separate but equal and 35 years of state-sanctioned redlining," and more. He shows convincingly this history of theft has not stopped for a minute. As April Taylor writes at Financial Juneteenth:
The piece focuses on how the racial wealth gap, racial achievement gap, and racial gaps in health and well being outcomes are the result of deliberate and conscious policy decisions.
Coates analysis, reprinted below, is a good one. It is a must read. However, it is not without flaws. Some of those flaws include the fact that the piece primarily describes African Americans as victims. I am not going to get into a semantics argument about the nature of the word, African Americans were victimized. However, they also have fought valiantly and heroically against their oppression from the moment they were kidnapped from their native land until today. Secondly, the article while talking about what has been stolen from blacks, fails to mention what has been given to whites. All white Americans have received material privileges and more as a result of white supremacy. All white people are still receiving material privileges. Until that is stopped, well, we can't even start to calculate a figure for reparations or even what reparations will ultimately come to mean. Third, the analysis while worthy is still a liberal one. It is written as if black people should be asking for reparations. The truth is black people, and any white people who truly reject white supremacy, and white skin privilege need ask for nothing. We need to demand what rightfully belongs to African Americans. Nothing is being given. You can't give what you was never yours. Finally, the analysis ends with some sort of homage to how paying reparations and even merely arguing for their need somehow will make America the land it proclaims to be. Paying reparations is an absolute requirement, but much more than that is needed before America becomes the land I, at least, want it to be. For that to happen, much more than some sort of atonement for past sins is necessary. For that to happen, a total revolutionary change must occur in the entire social, economic, political system that is America, that is the United States of America. For that to happen, white supremacy must be destroyed, and then for global capital to be banished as well.
All of that said, this is not one of those things where we say until we achieve total victory all the rest are mere liberal reforms and not worth the trouble. The fight for reparations, the demand for reparations, the achievement of reparations (of all kinds, not merely monetary) is worth it all on its own. African Americans can never be "repaid" for the brutal treatment and ongoing exploitation, discrimination, violence, theft, for all that USA history has dished up. We know that. Still, and again, the demand for reparations is a good one...and so is the piece below.
Absolutely, no ones life is to be measured in dollars. In the article, you will probably be surprised to see that Menachem Begin agreed with you. Many Israeli Jews opposed accepting any reparations from Germany...even violently. I understand that position. Still, I see reparations as one way of trying to deal with the historical and on going fact that white people have gained and continue to benefit from very real material advantages. As I stated clearly in my intro to the story, "African Americans can never be repaid" for the brutal treatment and ongoing exploitation, discrimination, violence, theft, for all that USA history has dished up. We know that." Reparations are just one part of a much larger struggle, but it is high time America paid something besides lip service for its brutal, ugly, white supremacist history. Reparations are not an atonement, nor should anyone feel they somehow wipe the slate clean. Reparations may not mean simply paying individuals some sum. There are other methods -such as use money to right some of the injustice in healthcare, in education, in this or that. However whatever is done should be done under the leadership and the control of African Americans, not some liberal institution, some NGO, surely not the government. Meanwhile, waiting for the revolution doesn't cut it. By the way, need I mention that American Indians certainly have a claim of their own.