Ta-Nehisi Coates ‘Shocked’ To See Reparations Conversation Continuing

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Reparations Conversation
Photo By Eduardo Montes-Bradley

Author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates reinvigorated the conversation about reparations for descendants of slaves in 2014 with his exhaustive essay “The Case For Reparations.” Now the award-winning writer said he is surprised the topic is still getting so much prominent attention.

In an interview with CBS This Morning, Coates admitted having reparations heavily in the national conversation five years after his article was published is unexpected.

“When you’re a writer you are fortunate if anybody pays attention to anything you do so you have to write out of some sort of deep-seated belief. So I’m shocked to see this continuing now,” Coates said.

Reparations has been a hot topic lately – particularly for U.S. lawmakers and democratic candidates running for the 2020 presidency.

In the U.S. House, Rep. Sheila Jackson and dozens of her colleagues are pushing the HR 40 Bill, which calls for a national apology and study to figure out a feasible way to establish reparations policy. The bill was first introduced in 1989 by now retired Rep. John Conyers, reported the Christian Century.

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The goal of reparations is not a free handout, but rather a push for the America to formally recompense for the unmitigated harm the institutions of slavery, Jim Crow and other oppressive policies have inflicted on enslaved Blacks and their descendants.

Coates is clear the gaping effects still permeate today.

“I intentionally wrote the article the way I did because I was very aware that often what people say about reparations is well slavery was a long time ago. Those people are dead. It’s not affecting anything, so it was very important that I start with someone who was alive,” Coates said.

Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker introduced a similar bill in the U.S. Senate and recently, Georgetown University students voted overwhelmingly to create a reparations fund for descendants of 272 slaves the university sold to pay off its debts in 1838.

Coates said it is extremely important to HR 40 pass so the country can hear from Blacks and really gain a true understanding why reparations is needed.

“My basic argument in the piece that I made is the relationship between African-Americans in this country, and the broader country for most of our history, has been one of extraction – taking resources out of the community to profit other people,” Coates said. “That explains to a large extent the 20 to 1 wealth gap that divides Black and white Americans … I became convinced that there was no other policy beyond reparations that could handle that.”