Doug Ross suggests that there would be great interest in a discussion of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece in The Atlantic on the subject of reparations.
OK, so I’ll raise the subject. I can’t really comment this morning because I don’t have time to read the rather lengthy piece myself. I did, however, skim over the synopsis that Doug provided.
It tells me that what Coates suggests is not so much reparations in the sense of dollars. Rather, he wants to authorize a commission that would cause us to talk about the subject:
Calling the essay the “case” for reparation is equally misleading. Coates produces plenty of facts and figures that would be used to argue the case for reparations, his role though, is less that of the prosecuting attorney than that of the Grand Jury. He’s merely presenting enough evidence to make it clear that there ought to be a trial.
The “trial,” in this case, would be a study conducted by a congressionally appointed committee under the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, a bill that has been submitted by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in every Congress for the past 25 years, but has never been brought to the floor.
The purpose of the bill is “To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.”
The Commission would have no authority beyond the ability to compel testimony and gather information, and would be authorized to spend $8 million–a sum utterly trivial in the grand scheme of the U.S. budget. Its conclusions would not have the force of law, and could not require the U.S. government to take any action whatsoever.
This brings us to the monster in the closet. Coates believes that the United States, as a people, has never been fully honest with itself about the extent to which black Americans were subjected to institutionalized discrimination. Further, to the extent that we have acknowledged discrimination, the U.S., as a country, has never made an honest effort to assess what it cost the country’s black citizens.
That’s what we’ve locked away in the closet, he argues, and the Conyers committee’s charge would be to open the door and find a way for the United States, as a people, to kill the monster. It’s that effort itself, Coates writes, done under the imprimatur of the federal government itself, which would be the true act of making reparations.
“Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely,” he writes.
“What is needed is an airing of family secrets, a settling with old ghosts. What is needed is a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt….
The only reaction I have is, “More talk?” Perhaps because of what I have done for a living for so many years, every time someone says we haven’t talked enough about the subject of race in America, or some aspect of the subject of race in America, I wonder where they’ve been.
But hey, I’m a talker. Let’s talk away. I just don’t know where yet another talk can realistically be expected to take us…