Ta-Nehisi Coates' intricate, brilliant Atlantic cover story about reparations is so enthralling that people are still debating the matter. Last night, Coates appeared at D.C.'s Sixth & I Synagogue and answered questions about the piece.
The main issue that people have with a case being made for reparations is how would they be distributed? What would the specific plan be? Coates' response, though detailed, was rather simple: Most people don't know enough about the issue to even have the discussion.
Here's an excerpt from the session:
A lot of people think they are equipped to have this conversation and they are not. I just want to be really clear about this: Anyone who has read Colin Powell's biography—there's an entire section where he talks about experiencing segregation. Colin Powell did not appear when he became head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That's not how it happened. Eric Holder? Eric Holder's family? You're right, his lineage is Caribbean. But his family was here in the 1960s and he 1950s. They were here. Eric Holder didn't appear as ... what was his position ... assistant attorney general or whatever he was in the Clinton [administration]. He didn't just suddenly appear.
It's very, very important ... it's really, really important that, you know, if we're going to have this fight, that folks educate themselves on the history. You can oppose reparations all you want, but you got to know the facts. You really, really do.
He had a very succinct answer for anyone who accused him of race-baiting or stirring the pot:
And I think, when people say, oh, you're just advocating another study because you're punting. No, you just have no idea how much you don't know. You know? We just don't. It's quite a bit.
Though it's almost impossible to come up with a simple answer to the question, Coates' feature has done exactly what it needed to do: Start the conversation.
[via The Atlantic]
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