Thanks to Kevin Williamson for his thoughtful response to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay “The Case for Reparations” in The Atlantic. I’ll just state briefly here why I find Mr. Coates’s essay unpersuasive. There’s no dispute that America has a long sad history of racial discrimination and that it and its effects are still with us — despite inspiring progress — and there’s also no shortage of talk and scholarship (serious and otherwise) on this topic. The other, shorter part of Mr. Coates’s thesis is, as the title of the essay says, some sort of “reparations,” but he is openly vague about what that would look like. He wants still more talk and owning up; he offers little concretely except to endorse Representative John Conyers’s perennially proposed bill that would set up a commission to “study” the matter. But this bill is a bad road to go down, as I explained in my testimony against it years ago, which you can read here. Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom testified at the same time against the bill, and you can read his excellent testimony (starting on page 82) here. Finally, videos of the hearings are available here and here.
by Roger Clegg