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The Case for Reparations

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/5/29/the_case_for_reparations_ta_nehisi

The Case for Reparations: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Reckoning With U.S. Slavery & Institutional Racism

283px-Democracy_Now!_logo.svgA DAILY INDEPENDENT GLOBAL NEWS HOUR with Amy Goodman & Juan González

An explosive new cover story in the June issue of The Atlantic magazine by the famed essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates has rekindled a national discussion on reparations for American slavery and institutional racism. Coates explores how slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and federally backed housing policy systematically robbed African Americans of their possessions and prevented them from accruing inter-generational wealth. Much of the essay focuses on predatory lending schemes that bilked potential African-American homeowners, concluding: “Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: “The case for reparations. 250 years of slavery. Nine years of Jim Crow. 60 years of separate but equal. 35 years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.” So begins an explosive new cover story in the June issue of the Atlantic magazine by the famed essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates. The article is being credited for rekindling a national discussion on reparations for American slavery and institutional racism.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In the essay, Ta-Nehisi Coates exposes how slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and federally backed housing policy systematically robbed African Americans of their possessions and prevented them from accruing intergenerational wealth. Much of the piece focuses on predatory lending schemes that built potential African-American homeowners. This is a video that The Atlantic released a preview its new cover story, “The Case for Reparations.”

*BILLY LAMAR BROOKS SR.: This area here represents the poorest of the poor in the city of Chicago.

MATTIE LEWIS: I’ve always wanted to own my own house, because I work for white people when I was in the South, and they had beautiful homes and I always said, one day I was going to have me one.

JACK MACNAMARA: White folks created the ghetto. It drives me crazy today even that we don’t admit that. This is the best example I can think of the institutional racism.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: To talk about “The Case for Reparations,” we’re joined now by Ta-Nehisi Coates here in New York City. Welcome to Democracy Now! You start your article with one particular figure, Clyde Ross. Tell us his story and why you decided to begin with him.

Part 2 – The Case for Reparations: Segregation, Housing Discrimination


283px-Democracy_Now!_logo.svgA DAILY INDEPENDENT GLOBAL NEWS HOUR with Amy Goodman & Juan González

We air part two of our interview with famed essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates about his cover article in The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations,” in which he exposes how slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and federally backed housing policy have systematically robbed African Americans of their possessions and prevented them from accruing inter-generational wealth. “It puts a lie to the myth that African Americans who act right, who are respectable, are somehow therefore immune to the plunder that is symptomatic of white supremacy in this country,” Coates says. “It does not matter. There’s no bettering yourself that will get you out of this.”

Click here to watch part one of this interview.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end today’s show with the second part of our interview with famed essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates talking about his explosive new essay called, “The Case for Reparations”. The 16,000 word article is the cover story for the June issue of The Atlantic magazine and is being credited for rekindling a national discussion on reparations for American slavery and for institutional racism.

AMY GOODMAN: In the piece, Ta-Nehisi Coates exposes how slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and federally backed housing policy systematically robbed African-Americans of their possessions and prevented them from accruing intergenerational wealth. Much of it focuses on predatory lending schemes that bilked potential African-American homeowners. Juan González interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates on Thursday. For the first part of our conversation, go to democracynow.org. This is part two.

“JUAN GONZÁLEZ: One of the things you mentioned in that article, when people speak about racism or white supremacy in this country, they are usually talking about individual acts or, for instance, Donald Sterling and the Los Angeles Clippers, his remarks have gotten widespread attention. But they don’t want to talk about any institutional manifestations of racism. You write “it is very hard to except white supremacy as a structure erected by actual people as a choice, as an interest, as opposed to a momentary bout of insanity.”

TA-NEHISI COATES: Right, right, right. Again, this goes back to one of the things I was saying earlier. We have this — our notion of racism, as you mentioned is, you know, Donald Sterling, and Clive Bundy, somebody that says something that seems intemperate. We think of racism as a matter of the heart. This is why is becomes so explosive, say today, to call somebody “racist,” because you basically are calling them a child molester or something like that. But, the statements of individuals are largely more symptomatic than they are the source of anything. The thing people have to remember is there is nothing natural about racism as it exists in America. We know this historically. We can look at 1619 when Africans first came here and how early African slaves intermixed pretty discriminately with indentured white servants. You can look at Bacon’s rebellion where you see black people and poor white people actually allying in a rebellion. One hundred years later for some reason, that would not happen. We can see why that would not happen if you look at the actual laws. What we call black in America today is a matter of laws, laws that were actually passed to enforce slavery. What we call black here today is not what folks call black in Brazil, is not what, you know, even what people would call black in Louisiana 100 years ago. Things change. Race is an actual manifestation of a done thing and that has profound, profound consequences. And I think if we can focus on that, if we can understand it as a structural thing, as a matter of actual policies as opposed to some intemperate remarks somebody made as a result of those policies. Then I think we would be in a much better place.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the people you write about is Ethel Weatherspoon. She has owned her own home in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago for more than half a century. In a video accompanying your piece, Ethel Weatherspoon explains how she bought her house on contract.

 

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