African-Americans deserve reparations. Discuss.
The idea of reparations — that the descendants of slaves should be compensated by the national government for the wrongs and the legacy of slavery — has always been controversial.
When Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic wrote the June cover story, “The Case for Reparations,” he set a traffic record for the magazine’s website. He provoked responses from across the political and ethnic spectrum. Some of his critics did him the courtesy of reading the entire 16,000-word piece. Others, particularly in the Twittersphere, reacted viscerally to the headline and to reactions to the headline.
Through many of these responses, whether thoughtful or tossed-off, there’s been a certain thread of uneasiness; a reflexive move to find reasons why reparation couldn’t be done or why it wouldn’t be workable or fair.
To me, this reflex is as interesting as the original argument. And it suggests that before America could ever actually do reparations, America would have to first be able to imagine the necessity of reparations. The greatest obstacle to considering reparation isn’t practicality; it’s a dearth of moral imagination.