Against reparations

John McWhorter takes issue with Ta-Nehisi Coates:

[O]versimplification is at the heart of a Coates-style approach to the reparations issue. No, I am not about to say there should be no reparations because black people don’t need assistance, or because slavery and Jim Crow were a long time ago. Rather, the argument against them is in part that there have already been reparations. They have not been titled with that name, but the substance has been the same.

Should a people be treated like animals for 350 years and cast adrift? No — and we haven’t been. Affirmative action has been reparations. No one denies it has transformed the lives of countless black people — if it hadn’t, there wouldn’t be so many people so furious at the prospect of its demise. In the late 1960s, welfare payments to poor black women were expanded, made easier to get, and subject to less oversight over time. This was explicitly intended by its advocates as reparations.

Museum exhibits about slavery and the horrors of the black experience represent a nation deeply concerned with psychological reparation. Educated white Americans’ focus of late on atoning for white privilege is reparations. The American intelligentsia’s reception of Coates’ book is reparations.

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