Dear White Folks, Reparations for Black Americans are Not a 'Lottery'
I am still working through my thoughts on Ta-Nehisi Coates' much discussed essay on slavery reparations.
Ta-Nehisi Coates will be on Melissa Harris-Perry's TV program this weekend. I am curious to see how he parses a long essay into a set of television talking-points. Melissa Harris-Perry is a great interviewer--and an expert on the material covered by "The Case for Reparations"--so the conversation should be very educational for the viewers of the show.
As I wrote here, I am fascinated by the comments that The Case for Reparations has generated over at the Atlantic and the other much less moderated sites across the Internet (speaking of which, one of the moderators of Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog was kind enough to chime in here).
If one needs any more confirmation that white supremacy remains a real social force in American life simply read the comments in response to Coates' The Case for Reparations.
The Internet is one part of what is termed "the backstage" of modern American racism. It is a space for people to act out publicly what their (semi)private thoughts actually are. Now, take the next step. Those bigots are your neighbors, friends, colleagues, and perhaps even your family members. Meditate on that fact.
For white folks, the above is a thought experiment. For people of color, it is a matter of life and death.
Most of the comments in response to Coates' new essay are standard, white racist, "color blind" talking-points. Consequently, they are uninteresting, merely a reveal of the White Right's intellectual bankruptcy in post civil rights America.
However, there is one emerging meme in the comments against Coates' essay that merits some attention. Contrary to what some racists would suggest--be they active or passive, intentional or accidental, or just drunk on white privilege and the white racial frame--slavery reparations (or for the myriad of other state sponsored crimes against black people in America) are not a "lottery".
Reparations, of any form, are an act of acknowledgement that a crime has occurred, and said victim should be made whole both materially and financially, as well as through the moral gesture of an apology.
A lottery is a random win. A lottery is fun. The crime against humanity that was centuries of white on black chattel slavery across the Black Atlantic, more than one hundred years of Racial Apartheid in the United States under Jim and Jane Crow, and then decades more, into the present, of continued institutional white supremacy, is not fun or entertaining for African-Americans or other people of color.
It is more than glib. Using the word "lottery" to describe slavery reparations is an act of violence through language against black folks' humanity. When the justice claims of black Americans are reduced to the randomness of a game and the monies that can come with winning it, white racists and their allies are mocking and dancing on the graves of the recent dead, the long-dead, and those in the present whose life chances continue to be negatively impacted by white supremacy.
There is mounting empirical research which suggests that white people do not feel empathy towards people of color. And maybe that is the point? If you do not feel any sense of empathy or shared humanity with black people then why would a person not spit in the face of their lived experiences by reducing their justice claims to a "lottery"?
Do share if you would. What are some of the most obnoxious and racist comments you have encountered online in response to Coates' new essay on reparations for the crimes committed against African-Americans? What are some of the smarter and more insightful comments, either pro or con, that you have read?