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In an article entitled “The Case for Reparations” written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, from the Atlantic, he argues the idea of reparations and how it deserves an important place in the discussion of race in the United States. Though it may seem as though Coates title of his article portrays “reparation” as: making amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged; However, he isn’t demanding that a sum of taxpayer dollars should be handed out to every African American. Though it seems like a very effective method of apologizing on the behalf of the United States history of racism, it is not possible to come up with a price that would repay for centuries of enslavement and oppression. Rather, Coates argues the idea of reparation is what is important and creates a bigger impact, in the sense that the U.S and its citizens need to start off by asking, “How much does the U.S owe its black population after the brutal history they’ve been through?” I agree with Coates idea on trying to have a conversation that may lead to physical payments; but in order for that to occur, society needs to begin discussing reparation. Coates points out that an underlying factor behind the current oppression is that so many Americans are unaware of the nation’s history and the role the white supremacy played in the oppression of black people. From the beginning the United States claimed its place globally through the morality of its affluence and its democratic ideals. Coates argues that the U.S.’s morality was built on slavery. It has been observed that early political culture in America can be valiantly democratic, yet the majority of the American working class was enslaved. “The state with the largest number of enslaved Americans was Virginia, where in certain counties some 70 percent of all people labored in chains. Nearly one-fourth of all white Southerners owned slaves, and upon their backs the economic basis of America—and much of the Atlantic world—was erected. In the seven cotton states, one-third of all white income was derived from slavery. By 1840, cotton produced by slave labor constituted 59 percent of the country’s exports” (Coates). It was also noted that, “”in 1860, slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America’s manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together” (Coates). This exemplifies why the South was willing to go to war with the North, in order to preserve slavery since it was the foundation of their prosperity and their economic stability. Coates continues to discuss the poverty that black people go through today and the direct correlation that can be traced back to racist policies and actions within living memory like Jim Crow Laws and literacy tests. Evidently, black people living under slavery and Jim Crow segregation were not given a chance to flourish in society through self-determination and meritocratic affluence, which is the polar opposite to white Americans. Throughout American history black people were denied the rights to a proper education, politics, and their property was often poached, as well as not having any protection under any state laws. Another major setback was the denial of the growth of the middle-class such as the GI Bill, homeownership and the New Deal. To further solidify his claims, Coats tells the story of Clyde Ross, an African American who fled Mississippi to find work in Chicago. Clyde Ross worked very hard in order to save money in Chicago in order to raise a family to the best of his ability, and had a similar dream to many Americans, of owning a house. However, due to the only way a black person can purchase a home in Chicago during the mid-twentieth century, was to buy from corrupted “contract” sellers who had excessive rates with little to no, legal protection for buyers. Thus, Ross had to work harder and had to take on additional jobs to pay for the mortgage. “To keep up with his payments and keep his heat on, Clyde Ross took a second job at the post office and then a third job… His wife took a job… He had to take some of his children out of private school. He was not able to be at home to supervise his children or help them with their homework. Money and time that Ross wanted to give his children went instead to enrich white speculators” (Coates). Similarly to Ross, his neighbor Mattie Lewis claimed that ” SheYou cut down on things for her your child, that was the main thing…My oldest wanted to be an artist and my other wanted to be a dancer and my other wanted to take music”(Coates).Through Lewis’s personal accounts, it was evident that when black people started to move in, white people started to move out. Coates continues to note that these homebuyers were fully conscious of the fact that they were getting “robbed”, but accepted it as a fact of life because the only way for a black person to succeed in America was to get “robbed” by white people. Furthermore, Coates emphasizes that these assumptions carry major consequences, “policies that placed black America’s most energetic, ambitious, and thrifty countrymen beyond the pale of society and marked them as rightful targets for legal theft… Think of his North Lawndale neighbors–their children, their nephews and nieces–and consider how watching this affects them. Imagine yourself as a young black child watching your elders play by all the rules only to have their possessions tossed out in the street and to have their most sacred possession–their home–taken from them” (Coates). This sense of awareness is what Coates is trying to bring to the table and to exemplify the social construct that is racism and the kind of toll it creates for African Americans back then and today. One difficulty that Coates points out about obtaining reparation today is that a lot of factors are responsible for the current situation black people are in. Almost every institution in the U.S. has played a role, scaling from the layout of cities to the routine of employers. The U.S.’s racist past has been fixated within the very foundation of our nation and as a result, it has left a gargantuan gap in wealth between black people and white people. “Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap. Reparations would seek to close this chasm. But as surely as the creation of the wealth gap required the cooperation of every aspect of the society, bridging it will require the same” (Coates). Due to the evident gap, a cash grant would not solve the issue entirely. What Coates believes is that in order for Americans to take responsibility for their twisted past, society needs to radically change its public institutions and their way of functioning. This is what Coates hopes to accomplish with his definition of “reparations”. Another issue that Coates claims is that many Americans don’t appear to believe that the current social and economic situation is the result of past actions. He observes that people seem to think that black and white people start off at the same level in the playing field and both have the same resources and both have an equal chance of achieving similar goals. Adding on to Coates meaning of reparation, he claims that changing the current course society has taken, the first step to change is awareness. “We may find that the country can never fully repay African Americans. But we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion–and that is perhaps what scares us. The idea of reparations is frightening not simply because we might lack the ability to pay. The idea of reparations threatens something much deeper–America’s heritage, history, and standing in the world” (Coates). What Coates is trying to indicate is that this path that the U.S. has taken in terms of oppression and discrimination is more that compensation for past injustices, rather it is about a national judgement that will lead to a renewal for the better. Reparation would mean a rebellion of the current American mindset, a reconfiguration of our self-image as a “democratizer”. “An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane… More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders” (Coates). The poverty that many black people face today is a result of yesterday’s racism. As Coates states, “When we think of white supremacy, we picture Colored Only signs, but we should picture pirate flags” (Coates). He points out that justice for past sins requires society to redefine our public institutions, and to consider the fact that the U.S.’s sense of self-worth has been founded on the mistreatment of African Americans.

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