Would Reparations be Good for America?

c08527e5aThere is a must read, extensive piece in The Atlantic‘s Features section entitled “The Case for Reparations” that everyone should read.

It gives as close to a complete history of racism against African-Americans in the U.S. (that can fit in a magazine format) as you can get with broad historical sweeps all the way down to personal biographies. It covers the times of 1669 to today, from slavery, to the end of reconstruction, to the government policies of the New Deal and the Eisenhower years, to Jim Crow, to redlining, and the current attacks on affirmative action.

This piece is essential.

Yet, I am always skeptical about any arguments regarding the allowance of reparations to African-Americans for I have a few questions, mainly: Who will pay? How much should we/whoever pay? Etc. But the author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, proposes some ideas:

Scholars have long discussed methods by which America might make reparations to those on whose labor and exclusion the country was built. In the 1970s, the Yale Law professor Boris Bittker argued in The Case for Black Reparations that a rough price tag for reparations could be determined by multiplying the number of African Americans in the population by the difference in white and black per capita income. That number—$34 billion in 1973, when Bittker wrote his book—could be added to a reparations program each year for a decade or two. Today Charles Ogletree, the Harvard Law School professor, argues for something broader: a program of job training and public works that takes racial justice as its mission but includes the poor of all races.

But what he wants us to take away from his article is:

And so we must imagine a new country. Reparations-by which I meant the full collective biography and its consequences-is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely.

Coates points us to the story of the acceptance of reparations paid to the Israelis by West Germany for the crimes of the Holocaust for comparison. That did not always go well in terms of acceptance by all Israelis, but it might be a start if we to take the idea of reparations seriously.

Yet, I have one more question regarding the proposed reparations and that is what to do about the Native Americans. The murder, the genocide, the forced migrations, and the pandemic poverty within Indian reservations today, what should be done there? How should we right both wrongs and are reparations the answer to the White-Americans crimes against these two minorities?