Friday, April 5, 2019

Reparations Are More Likely to Divide the Nation Than Heal It: New at Reason

By Reason Staff - April 05, 2019 at 07:30AM

In his interminably long, but moving Atlantic essay documenting our nation's undeniable history of discrimination against African-Americans, author Ta-Nehisi Coates got to the heart of his pro-reparations argument on page 51: "What I'm talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe." Instead, he called for a "national reckoning" about this stain on America's history.

There's nothing wrong with having such a conversation, especially at a time when white nationalists are rearing their ugly heads once again. Americans do need to understand that such discrimination didn't just vanish in the distant past—and that everything wasn't made right by the Civil War and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Vast inequalities, injustices and prejudices remain, which are easily documented through a variety of economic and other measures.

But approving tens of billions of dollars or more in payouts will indeed be viewed as bribes and far worse, which will only make the national reckoning Coates seeks that much harder to achieve. In fact, his argument echoes that old quip: When someone says that something's not about the money, you can be sure it really is about the money. Nothing shuts down a dialogue more than a fight about who gets their share of a large stack of other people's cash, writes Steven Greenhut.

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