An Ongoing Conversation about The Case for Reparations

by Rachel Baker on June 8, 2014

A few weeks ago, I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations“. If you haven’t read it, pour yourself a cup of coffee, plop your ass on the couch and commence the history lesson. I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and continue to be interested when I see anything about it. Besides the interesting topic, I find it incredibly satisfying to read journalism of this calibur and of this length.

Regardless of your ideas about whether there should reparations or not, the historical lessons in this essay are worth every single bit of your time. Once you are done with the article/essay/history lesson, you may want to check out the Twitter Q&A with Ta-Nehisi Coates, which is available and curated for readibility.

This week, Ezra Klein interviewed Coates on Vox, as a way to continue the conversation Coates started with his essay on The Atlantic. The interview is almost one hour and has an attached table of contents at the link below if you’d rather just skip around. I suggest against it. Its pretty interesting stuff.

a-Nehisi Coates’ magisterial survey of American racism is already the most important magazine piece published this year. It’s the kind of piece, in fact, that may end up mattering in American life many years from now.

But it’s also an unusual piece. It’s an article that reads like a book, and an act of journalism that feels more like a work of history.The events Coates describes have been outlined elsewhere. The case for reparations has been made many times before, and often with much greater specificity. Yet Coates’ piece has catalyzed a discussion over American racism and American history like nothing else before it.

“It’s a reminder that if you’re going to go on television and you’re going to talk about the murder rate in Chicago, or you’re going to talk about the shape of African-American families, or you’re going to stand up and lecture black men about what they need to do, never forget that you are talking to a community that has repeatedly gotten a raw deal in this country,” Coates, a senior editor at the Atlantic, says. “Never forget that. Don’t talk to these people like somehow the American government, over the course of its history, has been a friend to black people and the black community.”

In a wide-ranging interview with Vox, Coates explains how he reported the article, why he tries to approach journalism as a historian rather than as a “Senate aide,” and what you should read next if you want to understand American racism.

Find the video here:
Ta-Nehisi Coates: the Vox conversation

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