Re: Ch. 6: NOTES FROM THE SIXTH YEAR - THE CASE FOR REPARATIONS
I was referring to damage I personally do in my life. I damaged someone else's car once, so I paid for the repair. I spoke out of turn once and really hurt someone, and the best I could do was apologize and try to make it up to them with words of praise. When I cause harm, I think it is not only right to make reparations but good for me as well.
If there were no ongoing injustice, I think it might be wisest to settle for sweeping the problem under the rug. After all, we don't contemplate giving back their land to Native Americans, and even the kinds of small reparations made by Canada and Australia can hardly make up for the massive injustice done to their original peoples. If we ever get to the point where we are honestly trying to undo some of the damage, I am sure we can find more appropriate measures than reverting wide areas to hunter-gatherer mode.
It was a different age, an age when almost all leaders thought about things about the way Trump does. Violence was a necessity. Injustice was the main mode of gaining wealth and power. But that way of looking at things dies hard. To pound a stake through its heart, reparations are worth considering.
At some point you have to recognize that a system designed to benefit your group, at somebody else's expense, implicates you in the system. I don't think Coates tries to extend responsibility to every white person (in places he recognizes the efforts of some white people to overcome racism, for example). White privilege is another subject, on which in a moment. But he certainly sees, with eyes that white people can afford not to, that the beneficiaries of "affirmative action for whites" over centuries have every incentive not to question the system or change it. Nor to accept others questioning it or changing it. Nor to accept the rage of those despoiled.
White privilege is the privileged position of white people in that they can pretend that race is not a factor. When white is "normal" and "we" are white, then surely whiteness conveys no benefit, right? Except it did, and it does. Race is invisible when white people look at other white people in everyday life. Race is not invisible when white people look at people of different skin color. How many people honestly don't notice the race of a black or Latino sports star or movie star? Why does Ben Carson or Clarence Thomas get any recognition or status at all?
Nor do I.
I like the way Lindsey Graham put it this week, that America is about an ideal (of democracy, and so, of opportunity and mutual acceptance) not about a race. The challenge is to make that the truth, not just an aspirational statement.