Saturday, February 21, 2015

The race reparations (for slavery) debate is back with a big Atlantic article

Here is a very long article in The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations”, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, link here.
A lot of the article deals specifically with racial history in Chicago.   

The article says, “This is not about now, it is about then”, and gets, toward the end, into a comparison of whether Germany should have paid reparations to the Jews after WWII. The US economy still has bad karma over slavery, which means that individual white people owe something, so the argument goes.  There is always a cultural issue over holding people responsible for what their ancestors did. 
Recently, I noticed an article about the rate of suspension from school in Rhode Island by race, here. That’s where God Davis, the late filmmaker of “American Lynching” comes from.
I’ve always been an individualist.  I do believe that individuals who have been more privileged (relative to their native abilities) should pay back or “pay their dues”, but it’s case-by-case, not something that comes from belonging or not belonging to a group and signing up for a particular cause. 
I remember a conversation with a shop in Richmond where I was placing my first book back in 1997, where he said, “Oh, I’m very much for affirmative action”.  And in the days after the book came out, I did get a few emails from people who thought I had started out ahead in line strictly because of race.

When I was substitute teaching, race usually wasn’t a discipline issue, until it was, just a few times, more with Latino issues. 
Above is a debate on reparations for the descendants of slavery (and segregation) at Boston University, the Christopher Hitchens Debate from 2001. 

No question, this debate comes in behind the recent controversy over police profiling, with Ferguson and Staten Island and other incidents. 

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