"multiplying the number of African Americans in the population by the difference in white and black per capita income"
I asked Mr. Ross why he'd come from Mississippi to Chicago. He told me he came because he was seeking "the protection of the law." I didn't understand what he meant. He told me there were no black judges, no black police, no black prosecutors in his hometown of Clarksdale. For a black man living in that town it effectively meant that there was "no law."
This was a particularly illustrative example of why it is always important to report. Talking to Ross clarified something I'd been thinking about--specifically that being black was not a matter of white people thinking you had cooties. It was something deeper and more mature. It was the branding of black people as outside of American society, outside of American law, and outside of the American social contract. And this branding was done even as black people pledged fealty to the state, paid taxes to the state, and died for the state. This was high tech robbery, plunder at the systemic level. White supremacy was not about getting black and white people to sit at the same lunch table, it was about getting white people to stop stealing shit from black people--labor, bodies, children, taxes, lives.
Liberals, intellectuals, and pundits have spent the past few years dancing around this historically demonstrable fact. I rarely hope for my writing to have any effect. But I confess that I hope this piece makes people feel a certain kind of way. I hope it makes a certain specimen of intellectual cowardice and willful historical ignorance less acceptable. More, I hope it mocks people who believe that a society can spend three and a half centuries attempting to cripple a man, 50 years offering halfhearted aid, and then wonder why he walks with a limp.
Instead, his goal is to demonstrate the recent origins of racial inequality, the role of the federal government, the role of private actors, and the extent to which the nation—as a whole—is implicated.
When people get into trouble with the law, they normally don’t have a chance to have a conversation with their victims. To explain what happened. Hear about the damage they caused. Say they’re sorry. But there’s a growing trend to try and make that happen, so both parties can move on.
Restorative Justice brings together the accused, the victim, supportive parties, and authorities. All at the same table in a safe space. It’s an old idea and it’s international. In fact, in New Zealand, where it was originally used by indigenous Maoris, it's a mandatory part of the criminal justice system. Here, in the U.S, these community conferences are increasingly being used in prisons, schools and as an alternative to juvenile detention...
Bradley asked him to stand up and write on a big presentation paper everything that he needed to work on. The teen’s demeanor changed; he was happy to be writing all of this out: applying for jobs; volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club; talking to kids at a middle school about crime; working with an arts project to express himself.
“What our program requires is that they go through a four part program," Bradley told me. "They fix the harm with themselves, they fix the harm with their families, they fix harm to the victim, and fix the harm with the community."
Bradley has about more than 100 cases like this one; he’s completed 40 so far. Some of them were serious assaults, burglaries, and robberies, all scheduled to meet their victims face to face...
Congress has been increasing the amount of federal money for restorative justice programs over the last several years.
Although it’s cheaper than sending a child to a detention center, restorative justice is very labor intensive. Counselors have to check in to make sure promises are kept: rooms cleaned; community services completed; jobs applications filled out. And, on the front end, if the parents, police, or victims don’t show up to the conferencing, it can send a message to the kids that it’s not that important.
This is both the fundamental strength and weakness of restorative justice: that is only works when everybody is convinced to care.
In 1963, the Finnish Parliament made the bold decision to choose public education as its best shot at economic recovery. “I call this the Big Dream of Finnish education,” said Sahlberg, whose upcoming book, Finnish Lessons, is scheduled for release in October. “It was simply the idea that every child would have a very good public school. If we want to be competitive, we need to educate everybody. It all came out of a need to survive.”
Practically speaking—and Finns are nothing if not practical—the decision meant that goal would not be allowed to dissipate into rhetoric. Lawmakers landed on a deceptively simple plan that formed the foundation for everything to come. Public schools would be organized into one system of comprehensive schools, or peruskoulu, for ages 7 through 16. Teachers from all over the nation contributed to a national curriculum that provided guidelines, not prescriptions. Besides Finnish and Swedish (the country’s second official language), children would learn a third language (English is a favorite) usually beginning at age 9. Resources were distributed equally. As the comprehensive schools improved, so did the upper secondary schools (grades 10 through 12). The second critical decision came in 1979, when reformers required that every teacher earn a fifth-year master’s degree in theory and practice at one of eight state universities—at state expense. From then on, teachers were effectively granted equal status with doctors and lawyers. Applicants began flooding teaching programs, not because the salaries were so high but because autonomy and respect made the job attractive. In 2010, some 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots, according to Sahlberg. By the mid-1980s, a final set of initiatives shook the classrooms free from the last vestiges of top-down regulation. Control over policies shifted to town councils. The national curriculum was distilled into broad guidelines. National math goals for grades one through nine, for example, were reduced to a neat ten pages. Sifting and sorting children into so-called ability groupings was eliminated. All children—clever or less so—were to be taught in the same classrooms, with lots of special teacher help available to make sure no child really would be left behind...
The US is a rich country that’s beginning to resemble, for the average person, a poor one. Its infrastructure is crumbling. Its educational systems barely educate. Its healthcare is still nearly nonexistent. I can take a high-speed train across Europe in eight hours; I can barely get from DC to Boston in nine. Most troubling of all, it is poisoning its food and water supplies by continuing to pursue dirty energy, while the rest of the rich world is choosing renewable energy. The US has glaring deficits in all these public goods — education, healthcare, transport, energy, infrastructure — not to mention the other oft-unmentioned, but equally important ones: parks, community centers, social services.
So the US should invest in its common wealth. For a decade, and more. Legions of people should be employed in rebuilding its decrepit infrastructure, schools, colleges, hospitals, parks, trains. To a standard that is the envy of the world — not its laughingstock.
Why? If the US invests in the public goods it so desperately needs, the jobs that it so desperately needs will be created — and they will be jobs that (wait for it) actually create useful stuff. You know what’s useless? Designer diapers, reality TV, listicles, reverse-triple-remortgages, fast food, PowerPoint decks, and the other billion flavors of junk that we slave over only to impress people we secretly hate so we can live lives we don’t really want with money we don’t really have by doing work that sucks the joy out of our souls. You know what’s useful, to sane people? Hospitals, schools, trains, parks, classes, art, books, clean air, fresh water ... purpose, meaning, dignity. If you can’t attain that stuff, what good are five hundred aisles, channels, or megamalls?
So: invest in public goods; employ armies to build them; create millions of jobs. And they won’t be the dead-end, abusive, toxic McJobs that have come to plague the economy; they will be decent, well-paid, meaningful jobs which people will be proud to have...
Where will the money come from? Dirty secret number three: It doesn’t matter. Print it. Borrow it. Tax it from the super-rich, in whose coffers it’s merely sitting idly. It does not matter one bit. It’s a second order question. If the U.S. doesn’t invest in public goods, it will not prosper; and if it doesn’t prosper, it cannot pay off the debts it already has. Conversely, if it does invest in public goods, and creates millions of decent jobs, the source of investment will matter little; for the economy will have grown and people will be prosperous. We can debate until kingdom come whether to borrow; print; tax; and we should. But we are having a fake “debate” if we pretend that we cannot invest in society first; and then wring our hands that society is falling apart.
Chris speaks with The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates about the history of economic plunder and exploitation that are key features of white supremacy in America.
Coates noted that the magazine brought a lot of resources to the story, sending him out to Chicago with a film crew to do two mini documentaries and taking time to create interactive maps for the Web version of the article.
The reparations piece has broken readership records on The Atlantic’s website. When asked why, Coates said, “Racism sets people’s hair on fire,” whatever side of the political spectrum they fall on.
"It's a reminder that if you're going to go on television and you're going to talk about the murder rate in Chicago, or you're going to talk about the shape of African-American families, or you're going to stand up and lecture black men about what they need to do, never forget that you are talking to a community that has repeatedly gotten a raw deal in this country," Coates, a senior editor at the Atlantic, says. "Never forget that. Don't talk to these people like somehow the American government, over the course of its history, has been a friend to black people and the black community."
Ta-Nehisi Coates has done a public service with his essay “The Case for Reparations,” and the service he has done is to show that there is not much of a case for reparations. Mr. Coates’s beautifully written monograph is intelligent and sometimes moving, and the moral and political case he makes is not to be discounted lightly, but it is not a persuasive case for converting the liberal Anglo-American tradition of justice into a system of racial apportionment. Mr. Coates and those who share his views would no doubt observe that the Anglo-American practice, despite its liberal rhetoric, was a system of racial apportionment, and a brutal one at that, for centuries, with real-world consequences that continue to be large facts of American life to this day — and they would be correct. But the remedy Mr. Coates proposes would not satisfy the criterion of justice, nor is it likely that it would reduce or even substantially eliminate the very large socioeconomic differences that distinguish the black experience of American life from the white experience of it.
I wanted to take moment to reply to Kevin Williamson's Case Against Reparations. I wanted to do that, primarily, because his piece covers many of the most common objections to my piece, but also because I've always been an admirer of Williamson's writing, if not his ideas. Among those ideas is a kind of historical creationism which holds that "race" is a fixed thing. The problems with this approach are many, and duly apparent from the outset.
Williamson says he is opposed to "converting the liberal Anglo-American tradition of justice into a system of racial apportionment." He then observes that, in fact, that tradition, itself, has always been deeply concerned with "racial apportionment." Thus within the second paragraph, Williamson is undermining his own thesis—if the Anglo-American tradition is what he concedes it to be, no "converting" is required. We reverse polarity for a time, and then we all live happily ever after.
Or probably not. That is because Williamson's entire framing is wrong.
“We should have a post-racist society,” he says. “But people are scared of what that might mean.”
So, then, what would it mean? Coates leans heavily back in his chair, thinks for a moment, then starts working through the logic out loud: “A post-racist society is a society where you really don’t have any white people. That’s the scary thing. . . . The idea of whiteness is tied to power. And the destruction of that power means the end of whiteness itself.”
rtha: “I can imagine some terrible things, and yet I'm positive that I would want to burn humanity down if I read those replies, so I will...not. Sigh.”
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