Black History Month Day 2.
“One cannot escape the question by hand-waving at the past, disavowing the acts of one’s ancestors, nor by citing a recent date of ancestral immigration. The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte. A nation outlives its generations.” -Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations”
This is the heart of “The Case of Reparations” by Mr. Coates. The idea that Americans believe they can pick and choose what they honor and what they reject about America’s past. That just because you are a new immigrant, whose family arrived in America after slavery had been abolished that you are entitled to all of the freedoms that existed before you or your family immigrated, but are free of all of the debts. Why do we celebrate 4th of July? None of us were alive when this nation declared its independence from British rule. Yet, vast majority of us reject the idea of even considering the possibility of reparations. It was slave labor that built the economy that was able to fund this American experiment that every immigrant benefited from. Coates argues that this is no type of real patriotism, but “patriotism à la carte.”
To put it like another Howard Bison put it: “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.” (Toni Morrison “Beloved”). Either you accept all of the amazing things about America and its deplorable past or you reject America. Patriotism is or it ain’t. Thin patriotism ain’t patriotism at all.
Coates goes through and provides examples of how black people have been plundered. For example, he writes this about redlining:
“When the mid-20th-century white homeowner claimed that the presence of a Bill and Daisy Myers decreased his property value, he was not merely engaging in racist dogma — he was accurately observing the impact of federal policy on market prices. Redlining destroyed the possibility of investment wherever black people lived.”
The Case for Reparations is the most consequential essay that can be found in this book, but his pieces on Obama are powerful. He destroys the notion of respectability politics (Coates grew-up in West Baltimore. He attended an HBCU (Howard U.). He states he did not start socially interacting with white people until he was 21-years old — when he started working for a weekly newspaper. During the meetings the journalists would discuss various indie bands: Dinosaur Jr., The Smiths, Bob Mould and Sugar, etc. He was raised on Wu-Tang, Mob Deep, Rakim, etc. He did not expect the journalists to slow things down for him to understand these bands he never heard of, he would simply catch-up. That is the approach I am taking for the next 26 days. Google is a free resource and you are intellectually curious to catch up or not.) by invoking Obama. The fact that a large swath of Americans hated Obama when he was better than 99% of this country, based on a myriad of metrics. A man who has raised two beautiful daughters along with his intelligent wife. The fact that every Obama has attended either an Ivy League or “Public Ivy League” University. The only controversies concerning Obama were manufactured. That Obama even had that big beautiful dog, Bo. Yet, he was hated. So, if a considerable amount of the American population is going to hate Obama and demean him, then there is no such thing as respectability politics.
“The kind of trenchant racism to which black people have persistently been subjected can never be defeated by making its victims more respectable. The essence of American racism is disrespect.” — Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations”
Before Coates made The Case for Reparations, only 3% of Americans supported reparations. After he unleashed it on the world the support has risen to 12%, as of two years ago. I know if people read this essay that number will increase.
As we embark upon black history month I leave you with this last quote:
“But black history does not flatter American democracy; it chastens it. The popular mocking of reparations as a harebrained scheme authored by wild-eyed lefties and intellectually unserious black nationalists is fear masquerading as laughter. Black nationalists have always perceived something unmentionable about America that integrationists dare not acknowledge — that white supremacy is not merely the work of hotheaded demagogues, or a matter of false consciousness, but a force so fundamental to America that it is difficult to imagine the country without it.” -Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations”
#BlackHistoryMonth 2 of 28