Reparations and ‘the monster in the closet’

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…

101 thoughts on “Reparations and ‘the monster in the closet’

  1. Doug Ross

    Since I suggested the topic, let me comment on it.

    I think even opening the door to a discussion of reparations would cause more harm than good. And not simply because of racism. The problem is that we are too far removed from the existence of slavery in this country to properly deal with the logistics of how any type of financial reparations could be made that wouldn’t introduce even more confusion, anger, and (yes) racial strife. Think of the questions that any committee would have to deal with:

    Who gets paid? How much do they get paid? How does one prove eligibility for any payment (these are many of the same people who can’t get an id to vote)? Where does the money come from to make the payment? Do you only tax white people to pay for the reparations? Are mixed race descendants eligible for partial payments? And what happens IF reparations are paid? Does that somehow end racism? Does that put an end to affirmative action?

    The time for reparations was around 150 years ago. While there are still (and will always be) issues related to race in this country, it is clear that steps have been taken – especially over the past five decades – to address some of the inequality issues. It would be better to pursue a path that addresses current problems rather try and pay off a group of people who have no living relatives who were enslaved.

    I would be fine with any type of official government statement of apology for the treatment of blacks during the first 100 years of the country’s existence but that’s as far as it should go.

    There are approximately 35 million African Americans in this country. Would giving each one $1000 make any sort of difference? That’s 35 billion dollars.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      A couple of quick responses:
      — A brief skim of the Atlantic piece tells me that Coates is, if anything, more focused on Jim Crow than slavery. So talking about when slavery ended isn’t all that relevant to his point.
      — Talking about reparations 150 years ago probably was at least as impractical as it is today. Think about it: Who would pay? Northern whites probably felt that they had just finished paying enough for the South’s Peculiar Institution. And Southern whites didn’t have anything to pay with, since the wealth of the South had been tied up in slaves and land that depended on slave labor for its value. Also, that generation had a pretty full plate of hugely challenging political tasks, what with Reconstruction, and passing the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Where was both the money and the political capital supposed to come from? Maybe Lincoln could have swung something, but he was gone…

  2. Silence

    I am prepared to offer each survivor of US enslavement one 40 acres and a mule. The only catch is, the acreage will be BLM land in Nevada.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    How much would my nieces owe? They live in Alabama, which was certainly a bastion of Jim Crow laws, but they’re half-white and half-Filipino. Do they get a discount of some sort?

    What about descendants of Union soldiers who DIED in the Civil War? Seems like we should probably cut them a break, since dying seems to be a particularly big disadvantage in going forward in life.

    Those are just two examples of why reparations doesn’t make sense from an individual payor’s perspective, but I think Coates was advocating for the federal government to pay reparations since the entire country benefited from slavery. (At least I think that was his point.)

    I’ll even admit that growing up as a black child is a disadvantage. But you know what? A racial disadvantage is only ONE kind of disadvantage that can be inherited. Some black children are born into college-educated, affluent households, and some white children are born to heroin-addicted single mothers. Even when you consider the entire sum of racial crimes throughout American history, it doesn’t mean that one of these factors matters and one of these factors does not.

    Dealing with people as individuals makes reparations morally and practically impossible on the payee side of the ledger as well. It’s possible that people can rise in their socio-economic status, despite being disadvantaged. It’s possible that people can sink despite being advantaged. In the end, most of how we do in life comes down to the decisions we make. Yeah, there’s some luck involved, but as Branch Rickey said, “Luck is the residue of design”. Was Jackie Robinson a great ballplayer because he was lucky? Was Thurgood Marshall a Supreme Court Justice because he was lucky? Is President Obama our current president because he’s lucky?

    Coates’ line here is interesting:

    “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…”

    First, I don’t feel “white guilt”. I didn’t enslave anyone. Does anyone here in the commentariat feel white guilt? If so, I’d be interested to hear why. I had nothing to do with slavery. I don’t feel guilty about what other people did generations before I was born. I don’t have anything to feel guilty for, as far as I’m concerned. I am responsible for my own actions, not the actions of others from the past.

    Second, is racism a “family secret”? I’m pretty sure it has been well discussed.

    Third, how does paying money from one group (or the government) to blacks heal “the American psyche”? It seems like reparations is just dividing us up by class once again, like affirmative action does.

        1. Silence

          KF must be absent today, I expected her to compare me to SDIII and ask that my comment be stricken from the record.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I feel white guilt. Probably not as much as Coates would probably think I should, but it’s there in latent, residual form, like, I don’t know, “Past-life experience intruding on present time,” or “race memory stored in the collective unconscious.” No pun intended there; I’m using technical terms learned from “Ghostbusters.” Back off, Jack. I’m a scientist.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I hit “post comment” on that before I meant to.

        It’s a “family secret,” for some of us. Or at least, it’s family, if not secret.

        Those of you who have no ancestors (that you know of) who owned slaves may feel less of the family connection. But some of my ancestors DID, and were very much a part of that system. One of my great-great-grandfathers owned slaves, served in the SC General Assembly before the War, led his own company that he had raised locally in the war, then returned to the Legislature in the years AFTER the war.

        So he’s one of the people I hold responsible. That doesn’t mean I hold myself responsible, but I at least have a connection, one of which I am conscious, to such a person.

        Of course, I have other ancestors who were very much victims of the class that ran things under the antebellum system. Such as another great-great grandfather who to my knowledge did NOT own slaves, but went and fought the slaveholders’ war, and died at Petersburg. I didn’t know him, but I slightly knew his daughter, conceived when he went AWOL on the march up to Virginia. She died when I was 4, but I do have a certain dim memory of her.

        Then there’s my grandmother — granddaughter of the slave owner — who as a little girl lived next door to Ben Tillman up in Washington, and would visit him and sit on his lap, much to the horror of her parents…

        So yeah, family comes into it for me…

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    I am uncomfortable discussing this in our, I assume, all white commentariat. If anyone out there wishes to identify herself or himself as a (descendant of) victim(s) of Jim Crow or slavery, I would like to hear from that person. I acknowledge my privilege blindness.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      See, now, THAT is white guilt…

      I absolutely refuse to recuse myself from any subject bearing on human experience on account of an accident of birth…

      And I hereby invite all of my black and brown brothers and sisters to opine freely on the subjects of country clubs, elevator music, Wonder bread and having ancestors who owned people…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I find it interesting that an attorney would go for that “privilege blindness” thing. I would no more expect a white person to recuse himself or herself than I would a black person. Either might be said to be very emotionally invested in the subject, but I wouldn’t eliminate them from the jury on account of that.

      Theoretically, if you carry that to the logical extreme, almost no humans would be allowed to speak on such a subject. We’d have to form a panel of extraterrestrials, once we make contact with such. And perhaps THAT would be the solution to America’s most intractable challenge. Not that blacks and whites would necessarily go along with a decision arrived at by little green men. Because you know what THEY’RE like…

      1. Doug Ross

        I can think of plenty of reasons to be self-loathing but being born white isn’t one of them. My mother was born the day the banks closed in the Depression to my grandmother, a woman with a third grade education whose husband died while she was pregnant with my mother.

        Whatever privilege I have, I earned.

      2. Doug Ross

        Brad – I think only Navin Johnson should be allowed to comment since he was born a poor black child.

    3. Mark Stewart

      We are all tainted by slavery/Jim Crow. We are also all descendants of history – which neither makes us guilty for past sins nor victims of that past. Any of us.

      That’s the distinction between this faulty idea and the controversy over the Confederate flag in front of the State House – we are responsible for the world we are, at present, in the process of shaping.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Exactly. The flag — and our inexcusable continued insistence on flying it — is something for which we are responsible, and SHOULD feel guilty, as South Carolinians who aren’t doing enough to persuade our lawmakers to take it down.

        White guilt about things in the past is irrational, yet quite palpable.

        I felt a flash of it over the weekend. I was watching, on Netflix, an episode of “Midsomer Murders.” It opened with this creepy incident in which which a disturbed little girl murders her governess, then leaves the bloody knife in the arms of one of her dolls and goes peacefully to sleep, where her parents find her after they find the woman’s body.

        The camera zooms in dramatically to the knife, and it is a testament to white guilt that I was made uncomfortable by the fact that the doll looked like this as I was at the blood on the blade…

        Such guilt is not rational, but it’s there…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          By way of explanation, the murder scene was set in the 30s or 40s, deep in the past of one of the characters in the present-day drama.

          I assume the doll was meant to represent “Little Black Sambo” or some other character from a culture encountered in British colonial experience. At least, I found that image by searching for that phrase…

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    I have no “white guilt.” I can no more help the color of my skin or the privileges it has gained me, than help that I was born with tall-making genes and smart. I can try to imagine what it must be like not to have these privileges. I have felt the odd person out among Iranians and Jews, for example, but could still retreat to the dominant culture in which I live and enjoy the privileges my genetic birthright have given me.

    My family never owned slaves, having immigrated here, at the earliest instance, in the mid 1860s. I can assume my forbears were above-average intelligence, and I know they spoke German, a fairly easy hop to learning English. I know they had white skin. Those factors contributed greatly to the advantages I have today. It isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair. I have worked hard in the past, but surely no harder than the landscapers I see everywhere, almost none of whom are “white, not Hispanic.”

    I don’t know that “reparations” are proper. Look how well that worked out after WW I. I do believe in giving those less fortunate, and I use that term advisedly, an edge, in terms of the opportunities society controls. Affirmative action in school admissions, government funded jobs, the like. This can backfire, of course, when folks get Peter Principled into slots they are not prepared for and not given what they need to succeed. I like the program USC has that offers extra help to kids who are the first in their families to go to college.

    I still would prefer a discussion that included people who have experienced life without being born on first base by virtue of their skin color.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, that would be nice. But until folks fitting that description arrive (so that we know it), all we can do is offer our own honest, carefully considered, whitebread opinions…

        1. Silence

          Mine are Pumpernickel. It’s the blackest of all breads, and named for the devil’s flatulence. Once you go pump, you’ll never get dumped.

    2. Doug Ross

      Anyone who feels privileged to be white and feels a need to assist those who are not has ample opportunity to do so every single day without abdicating that desire to the government. Adopt a black child, fund a scholarship for a black high school student, use local black owned businesses for home repairs, etc., attend a black church and tithe to it, mentor a young black law student…

      Those would be the best reparations to make a real difference.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Huh? Why do I have to go to black church? Oiks

        I could not adopt any child. Simply could not deal with it, and would not be helpful. The handful of young black law students have plenty of mentors. I cannot afford to fund a scholarship. I have tutored black middle schoolers, but really had no aptitude for it.

        What I do have an aptitude for is advocacy. I believe that we, as a society, should create as just a society as we can, and that means one where the accident of birth is as minimally disadvantaging as possible. Where everyone gets the most equal chance possible!

        1. Barry

          Advocacy is fine- but there are a lot of advocates for all sorts of things

          and few that are actually willing to get out there and work at it.

          I – a white guy- mentored a young (black) elementary school child several years ago. I volunteered. It wasn’t hard- took about 1 hour a week – and really all I had to do was sit and listen to him at lunch- and ever so often I’d read to him and we’d talk. One of his teachers told me during the process that his grades had improved over the course of our relationship.

          All that takes is someone willing to do it. No special skills required.

            1. Doug Ross

              So how many man hours and how much money do you think it will take to end racism and put blacks on an even footing with whites? Who pays and how much?

            2. Barry

              It was a drop in the bucket. Of course I was only one of about 10 adults that read to the young man (4th grader) each week.

              They had many more students wanting mentors than willing adults.

              But it did mean a lot to my young man – Corey – and his mom.

            3. Barry

              Edit – I mean I was only one of about 10 adults that ate lunch with and read to the children at that school each week.

            4. Doug Ross

              Barry – I did the same thing back when my kids were in elementary school. I had two 2nd graders I read to at lunch time – one black boy and a white boy who had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I’m not claiming I had some great influence on their lives but it was pretty obvious they welcomed the attention.

  6. Norm Ivey

    I don’t feel white guilt, but I do feel patriotic guilt. Slavery and Jim Crow are just a couple of the things I’m embarrassed that we have done as a nation. Those crimes against humanity were legal in this country because of laws enacted by people elected by the voters of this country. I feel the same way about our euphemistically named “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the continued imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay of persons who are neither a threat nor accused of any crime. Our treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II and of American Indians throughout our history is embarrassing. The Tuskegee Experiment (and its kin) embarrasses me as an American. I’m embarrassed that as a nation we still seem to be looking for ways to legally disenfranchise some of our voters. These were not the criminal actions of individuals, but instead are all actions that were condoned by us as a nation.

    I don’t know about “white privilege”, but I know my family and I have never had to be concerned about any of these things because we are white. And I don’t know about reparations, but I know the actions of our ancestors continue to impact our society as it is now, just as our current choices will impact our descendants. Unless we subjugate our prejudices to our morals, we will continue to make some of these same self-defeating decisions.

    1. Barry

      Then hopefully you are stepping up to the plate and denying yourself and your family of some of those privileges.

      1. Norm Ivey

        No, there’s no need to deny my family those privileges. They are privileges that all Americans should have. Instead, it’s incumbent upon me to speak up when I see my nation attempting to enact laws that will perpetuate that privilege at the expense of my fellow citizens who were not born white.

        1. Doug Ross

          If the worst thing this country does to oppress blacks is expect a very small percentage of them to get an id card, we’ve come a long way.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            That is hardly the worst thing this country does to black people. Trying driving while black, wearing a hoodie while black….

            1. Doug Ross

              I believe that happens every single day without any problem. I’m sure you’ve seen any number of young black people wearing hoodies in Columbia. Are they being oppressed?

        2. Barry

          I think there is- if you truly feel the way you have stated here – the only fair thing is to deny yourself and family some of those privileges while at the same time working to bring those others up to get the same things you enjoy.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            How can I deny myself the privilege of better treatment just because of my skin color, and, frankly, hair texture? I have “white” features. Even among blacks, I am a winner, even if I wore “blackface.”

            1. Doug Ross

              You can deny yourself some privilege by giving back to those who are underprivileged whatever percentage your whiteness has afforded you. That would balance the scales.

            2. Doug Ross

              Maybe USC’s Engineering and Computing Department would be a good place to start with providing opportunities to black professors.

              I count one (maybe two) black faces in this group of 100. Certainly doesn’t represent the demographics of the state.


            3. Brad Warthen Post author

              That could be a self-selection problem, although I don’t know.

              I do know it was a huge problem for newspapers, back in the days when we were still hiring people in significant numbers.

              You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who WANTED their workforce to look like the communities they covered more than did newspaper editors. But wanting to didn’t make it happen.

              That’s because not that many black people, proportionally speaking, chose journalism as a profession — and when they did, they were somewhat more likely to choose broadcast than print.

              It was often hard even finding good black candidates to interview, much less hire.

              When I was an editor at The Jackson Sun, a small daily in West Tennessee, I went on a recruiting trip to the University of Missouri (regarded by many as the best J-school in the country). My publisher had told me I HAD to hire a minority. I dutifully told that to the faculty people who were helping me line up candidates to interview.

              They laughed. If I recall correctly, they had two black students in that graduating class. One was going to the L.A. Times, and the other had rejected The New York Times in order to go to Boston. Meanwhile, there was a horde of just-as-qualified white candidates clamoring for a chance to interview with my little paper.

              The publisher relented and allowed me to hire a young white woman as a reporter. I chose well. I left the paper right as she arrived, but I learned that she rose quickly at the paper, and moved on to do well at larger papers later.

            4. Brad Warthen Post author

              I just looked her up. She’s now managing editor of a paper in Kansas. I see (via LinkedIn), that she also went from the Sun to the Wichita Eagle, which was where I went from there.

              I suppose that’s because of the connection I helped create. While I was in Wichita, I recruited three of my former Jackson colleagues to follow me there. They, in turn, had their own connections.

              It’s interesting to see the ways the decisions we make affect other people’s lives. I was only in Wichita two years before coming here, but I helped create that migration pattern. (Reid Ashe, my former boss in Jackson, surely widened that channel considerably when he became publisher in Wichita.)

              Or maybe it was just a coincidence. It’s easy to persuade ourselves we have a bigger impact on other people than we do, I suppose…

            5. Kathryn Fenner

              I am sure that CSE would gladly hire any PhD of African-American descent who applied. Alas, the dearth of blacks in the faculty reflects the dearth of blacks taking advanced CSE courses. There are, I am told, increasing numbers of women and American students taking them, so….
              Steve taught an upper-level course about ten years ago with zero American students, and only two non-Asian ones, both from former Eastern bloc countries. Until we get serious about teaching STEM well, this is likely to be the same as it ever was. In CSE, as Doug well knows, you cannot fake it. You gotta know the stuff, or you are quickly buried.

  7. Kathy

    I have no white guilt. One of my best friends admitted to me a couple of years ago that she voted for President Obama in 2008 due to her white guilt. I guess she had overcome it by 2012 since she didn’t vote for him again.

    I believe I am a very fortunate person. As far as I am concerned, being born a citizen of the United States of America is a huge blessing in itself. I could list many blessings in my life; however, this post seems to be about problems and complaints. So here goes. I had ancestors who owned slaves, but none of them were wealthy. I’ve never felt responsible for what my ancestors did or didn’t do. Even responsibility for one’s own child’s actions has a definite limit. My father’s father killed himself. My mother’s father was an alcoholic who died far too young. My mother had polio and lived the last three decades of her life as a quadriplegic. My grandmother and I provided a huge amount of her care. Meanwhile, I worked, earned several college degrees, and had a family. (No, we never received one cent from the government. My daddy worked and had a decent job. The only assistance received was from the March of Dimes for the equipment to help her breathe.)

    Two of the best bosses I’ve had were black. I can’t imagine either of them supporting the payment of reparations. Both of them were huge believers in individual responsibility. I never detected the slightest bit of racism in anything they said or did. When I taught school, I was given a governmental form to fill out. One of the tasks was to count my students by gender and race. At that time, I realized that I had never thought about the race of my students. I was quite proud of myself at that point since 15 years earlier I had been in the midst of school desegregation in SC. Overnight our school went from being almost 100 percent white to over 60 percent black. Most students adjusted fairly well and quickly; however, there were some students of both races who made it their mission to make the changes as difficult as possible. I often marvel at how far we have come in less than 50 years. I find it disgusting that some people make a living still to this day by constantly beating the racism drum. I find the gender baiting rhetoric even more disturbing. Somehow I missed most of that garbage in college, but the last education class I took was loaded with the “horrors” of the gender bias and racism “so rampant” in the USA. I beg to differ. No one can change who their ancestors were nor prevent some problems occurring during their lives. However, a very good life awaits those who are willing to work hard and accept the responsibilities of adulthood. I guess I could bemoan the fate that befell some of my Huguenot ancestors in France and despise the English for what they did to some of my Irish ancestors. I think I’ll continue to make the best of my one and only life—the one I’m learning more and more is far too short.

    1. Barry

      I have no such guilt.

      I am thankful though. I’m thankful that my parents (only with high school degrees) stayed married when it got brutally tough on them from a financial and personal standpoint years ago when I was young.

      I’m glad that- even though they only had high school diplomas they didn’t let it stop them. They didn’t have unique talents. They didn’t invent anything. They did’t win the lottery- and they sure didn’t inherit much of anything.

      My mom worked a factory job for 40 years- retiring only 5 years ago when she was 64. She got talked to like she was dirt for many of those years by supervisors and managers. I know because I’ve had people that worled with her tell me. But she stuck with it and helped put me through college and because she saved her money- she and my dad were able to buy a nice home, pay it off and have a comfortable life even though they – in their words- would say they were only 2 country people from a small town.

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    So white people don’t think black people are oppressed. I’m glad we cleared that up!

    1. Doug Ross

      Can you ask Mayor Benjamin, Senator Tim Scott, ex-Police Chief Randy Scott, Oprah Winfrey, half the NBA and NFL, Will Smith, Kanye West, etc. if they are oppressed?

      Some people (white and black) find a way. Some don’t.

      1. Barry

        Or my next door neighbor- an electrical engineer with a great job- and enough money to have toys like nice farm tractors and boats and a heck of a nice, quiet guy who is probably more conservative than I am.

  9. Karen Pearson

    The problem with discussing reparations is that it stirs up so much anger in white and black alike. As a result people on both sides start talking as if those on the other side were just as their stereotype makes them out to be. Then the discussion really begins to heat up, and the racists on both side come out to play. At that point, all possibility of rational discussion is gone.

    1. Barry

      Not sure.

      I doubt most educated minorities would be interested in reparations at all. They don’t want anything given to them- and it’s arrogant for others to think they would want that.

    2. Doug Ross

      Karen – I disagree. I think that most of those opposed to reparations would be for two reasons: 1) the length of time since slavery ended and 2) the logisitical nightmare that would come from trying to define who was affected and what the proper reparations would be.

      Maybe the best solution would be to make a large one time grants to accredited black colleges.

      1. Silence

        OK, I propose that the State of South Carolina make a one time loan to SC State of 6 million dollars. They won’t be able to pay it back, so it will be a grant. Then we’ll be Even-Steven here in SC.

        It’s a great day in South Carolina!

  10. susanincola

    Seems simple enough to ask your black friends what they think about the Atlantic article and reparations instead of all this guessing about what they think.

    1. Silence

      I doubt that any of my black friends read “The Atlantic”, but come to think of it, I don’t think my white friends do either.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I haven’t finished reading it myself. Although I’ve learned a new word: runagate. I’m sure everyone else but me knew it. I suspect I’d seen it before and just misread it as “runaway.” So no harm done, since that’s what it means…

    3. Kathryn Fenner

      Yes, I was thinking maybe Brad could ask,his friend Henri Baskins, and maybe some other people of color what they think.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        That sounds kind of like Henri is my only black friend.

        I don’t know if I’d want to put her on the spot like that. She has enough challenges trying to make things better on the local level.

        Maybe someone like Joe Darby would be a better person to hit with that. He doesn’t have a job in which a frank answer on a topic such as this could damage his effectiveness…

  11. susanincola

    I don’t mean politicians who are willing to “make a statement” — I mean people you have a real history with. If we don’t have black/brown/”other” friends of the sort that sit around our dining room tables, that we have a history of trust with, then it’s hard to get a good picture of how they view issues. We end up making up our own stereotypes and then arguing with them.

    In that sense I like what Mark said about it not being about what’s lacking in the past, but about what’s lacking in the present.

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    I have been reading an alarming number of pieces in the wake of the Santa Barbara shootings where either men deny there’s a misogyny problem for women, because they don’t see it, or women tell the most heart-breaking stories about what happened to them when the nice guys weren’t around. I am not asking men to give up being men. Just stop denying that you have had an easier time of it than women have. I can only imagine how blacks feel.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      What does the Santa Barbara shooting have to do with anything? The guy was cray-cray, not misogynistic.

      I think you’re missing the fundamental issue, here Kathryn: Elliot Roger was crazy. You know…loony.

      One of the distinguishing characteristics about crazy people is – they are well….crazy…which is to say, not rational. Their thought processes are wrong, and they don’t process information like normal people do.

      Which means that if you’re looking for some kind of logical reason or explanation for what a crazy persons does, you’re not going to find it. Yet people persist in poring through stuff to find some kind of “Aha!” moment that Explains It All.

      And if you’ve ever dealt with truly crazy people (and I have a time or two), they always, always have long, detailed, specific reasons and explanations for why they did what they did. But their explanations make no sense. Because they’re crazy.

      And they also tend to fixate on things – a dog that barks, airplanes, medical issues – but you quickly learn that whatever the thing is, it’s immaterial. No matter what happens they will always find something else to focus on. Because the root problem is that they are mentally disturbed. And crazy.

      So let’s knock it off with the whole idea that this crazy guy shot some people for any sort of logical reason.

      Also, if you’re scoring at home, of the six victims, two were female. By my calculations, that means a majority of the victims were….ummmm….not female.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Um, have you read anything about his supposed motives? How he went to the sorority house looking to “get even.” He is a hero on PUAhater chat rooms, the guys who think every woman they fancy is a bitch unless she’ll have sex with them.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          And men are often the victims of this misogyny, because they are “getting some” unfairly, at the expense of the bad guy, who feels entitled and denied, as is the case with Rodger and his worshippers. Or the men are the current boyfriends or family members of the female victim of a domestic violence perpetrator, etc.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            A young woman was stoned to death by her family outside the courthouse in Pakistan yesterday for the crime of marrying someone without her family’s permission.
            It just goes on.

            1. Doug Ross

              “Not all men are misogynistic clods!”

              How many are? How often do you come across it?

            2. Kathryn Fenner

              Whoa, all the time. I had a meeting just yesterday with a top city official who clearly was more interested in what my male companion had to say.

              I think that if you define misogyny as believing that women are inferior, there to serve men and keep quiet, a whole lot of men are misogynistic, whether they realize it or not. #YesAllWomen

            3. Michael Rodgers

              The disgustingly loud comment from pathetically anonymous Silence is a demonstration of how pervasive and rapid and forceful misogyny is.

            4. Brad Warthen Post author

              I give up. What is TM, in this context? I’m thinking it doesn’t refer to Transcendental Meditation, which is what I think of…

        2. Barry

          He was a nut job. His motives are irrelevant.

          No sane person gets “even” by killing an innocent person.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        OK, I’m a little afraid to ask this question, but where did this “cray-cray” meme come from? I’ve been hearing it a LOT, to the point that it’s driving me a little, you know…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I found an answer on a site enticingly named “Know Your Meme.” I’m not sure the answer is convincing. I liked the part where it said the originator of the expression declared it dead — in 2011.

          So why am I still hearing it?

          1. Bryan Caskey

            I just used because it sounds funny – it’s not exactly a scientific term. When I was in high-school, the “cool/mean girls” used to say it to describe it when talking about people they didn’t like.

            I don’t really consider it a “meme”. It’s just a funny word.

  13. Michael Rodgers

    TNC was pointing out:
    (1) White supremacy is a key linchpin to all of USA’s history up to and including the present,
    (2) Talking about repairing the damage might be a good way to, at least, stop current damage, and
    (3) Liberal, theoretically race-neutral programs such as the New Deal, FHA, the GI Bill, and Obamacare end up not benefiting black people even though the programs ought to theoretically because that’s not how the USA works (as an example, Gov. Haley rejected Medicaid expansion).

    1. Doug Ross

      What is the point of talk without action? I’m waiting for the first person to suggest a number for reparations and a reasonable approach to distribution.

      Let me guess – we’ll set up a government run website that allows black people to register for a “subsidy” that will be paid based on “good faith” “evidence” that they have an ancestor who was a slave. No actual proof will be required because the mere act of asking someone to prove his identity is racist and oppressive.

      It’s an impossible task with negligible benefit intended to punish people who had absolutely nothing to do with the situation. Other than that, it makes sense.

      Let’s see a proposal. Just one.

      1. Michael Rodgers

        In his piece, TNC described in detail the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and redlining. Here are two sentences from that section: “Neighborhoods where black people lived were rated “D” and were usually considered ineligible for FHA backing. They were colored in red.”

  14. Michael Rodgers

    TNC’s piece is an argument in support for Conyers’s bill to talk about past and recent and on-going damage in the hopes of coming up with plans to curtail future damage and repair past damage. TNC says, ” For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr., who represents the Detroit area, has marked every session of Congress by introducing a bill calling for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for ‘appropriate remedies.'” Also, TNC defines reparations as “the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences,” and he sees it as “the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely.”
    As examples of on-going damage in South Carolina, please read Andy Brack’s recent commentary. He has bullet points of Legislature failures; each failure harms black South Carolinians more than white South Carolinians or benefits white South Carolinians more than black South Carolinians. Also, he comments on the Legislature’s failure to follow the law regarding education funding: “As in many recent years, lawmakers didn’t follow the state’s school funding formula, which requires them to appropriate about $2,800 per pupil. Instead, the proposed budget calls for $2,120 per student. Multiply that by 708,231 expected students and it’s easy to see how schools got shortchanged ten times as much as the new funding will provide.” This failure also harms black South Carolinians more than white South Carolinians.
    Finally, I wrote a blog for a while, in support of a bill to take down the Confederate flag. As far as I know, from the date of the “compromise” to now, there has only been relevant one bill, 2007-2008’s H-3588, and that is the bill I wrote in support of. I stopped my blog for many reasons, not the least of which was that there was no longer any bill to support.

    1. Barry

      You are too simplistic.

      It hurts poorer people.

      It doesn’t hurt well off blacks or whites who live in Irmo or Greenville a bit.

  15. Michael Rodgers

    TNC has a new post, replying to National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson. TNC says, “”The people to whom reparations were owed,” Williamson concludes. “Are long dead.” Only because we need them to be. Mr. Clyde Ross is very much alive—as are many of the victims of redlining. And it is not hard to identify them. We know where redlining took place and where it didn’t. We have the maps. We know who lived there and who didn’t.”
    Also TNC says, “The governments of the United States of America—local, state and federal—are deeply implicated in enslavement, Jim Crow, redlining, New Deal racism, terrorism, ghettoization, housing segregation. The fact that one’s ancestors were not slave-traders or that one arrived here in 1980 is irrelevant. I did not live in New York when the city railroaded the Central Park Five. But my tax dollars will pay for the settlement. That is because a state is more than the natural lives, or occupancy, of its citizens.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Being able to point to people who may be owed reparations doesn’t answer the question of who OWES reparations. And that’s a tougher call. Should people who had nothing to do with discriminatory practices, who perhaps even opposed them if they knew about about them, be on the hook for making victims whole? That’s a sticky wicket.

      Coates talks about what a state is, as something greater than the individuals in it. Fine. But once you go splitting the populace into individuals who are owed and those who owe, you’re not talking any more about a political entity we would call “the people.” You’re talking about some people over here, and some other people over

      I don’t see any way to sort this out, realistically and fairly. To me, the point of studying these past discriminatory practices is to determine first that they ARE past — that they aren’t going on any more — and to make sure they don’t happen in the future.

      A lot of people get a raw deal in a lot of situations for a lot of different reasons. Our society has various ways to seek redress for that, but people are not always made whole. And there’s not always a good way to MAKE them whole. I’ve begun to doubt, for instance, that I will ever recover financially from suddenly losing a high-paying position that I’d spent my whole adult life earning through very hard, intense work. The financial impact is every bit as bad as losing a house, or having the value of one’s home taken away. Worse, even. This has an impact on my wife and me, but also on my children and grandchildren. The occasions in which I could have helped them before but can’t now are very numerous. But whaddyagonnado?

      In my wife’s family, there’s this story about how one of her great- or great-great-grandparents lost a ranch in Oklahoma because of the actions of an unscrupulous attorney. That had ramifications on subsequent generations, but what can one fairly do about it after all this time?

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        And if I had a nickel for every story of “unscrupulous” attorneys who were no such thing, I could pay a lot of reparations….

  16. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, I want to hand it to Doug for bringing up this topic, predicting it would be of high interest. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a 100-comment thread. This comment brings this one to 98.

  17. Bryan Caskey

    (I think) he’s using it as a joke, kind of like some people use scare quotes, to denote something that you’re skeptical of.

    FYI, Michael: If you want to insert the symbol, so it’s smaller and superscript, you can do the following:

    1. Make sure your NUM LOCK is on.
    2. Hold down the ALT key.
    3. While holding down the ALT key, type 0153 on your keyboard number pad.
    4. Release the ALT key, and it should insert the symbol where your cursor is.

    It ends up looking like this: My interlocutor’s opinions are all Carefully Considered™

    Ok, enough fooling around for one day, kids. I’m heading to Pageland for court.

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