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Sat May 24, 2014, 12:02 PM

How To Tell Who Hasn't Read The New 'Atlantic' Cover Story [View all]

How To Tell Who Hasn't Read The New 'Atlantic' Cover Story


1. They talk a lot about slavery.

When people hear "reparations," they automatically think that what's being discussed is reparations for slavery. Coates does talk about slavery in the piece in particular, he notes the story of a formerly enslaved woman named Bellinda Royal who sued her former owner for recompense for her labors. But much of his focus falls on American housing policy from nearly a century later, events that have happened within living (and even recent) memory.

2. They talk about the logistics of reparations.

One of the critiques that always greet conversations about reparations is that they would be politically untenable and logistically thorny.

Coates is pointedly not interested in these questions. (Or at least, he isn't in this essay.) His larger argument is less about reparations for our history, per se, than it is about a kind of excavation of it.

3. They talk about affirmative action or welfare.

The other leap that people make when they hear conversations about reparations is to point to contemporary policy attempts to ameliorate inequality, most notably affirmative action and welfare. (Let's leave aside for a moment the very big question of whether these policies do or were ever intended to right historical wrongs or inequities.)

More:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/05/22/314881767/how-to-tell-if-someones-actually-read-ta-nehisi-coates-essay

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