An Analysis of “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“The Case for Reparations”:
• Reparations, not simply reparations for slavery but for the recent and current injury to African Americans in the United States.
• Slavery: 1619 to 1865
• Jim Crow (1865 to 1964):
o Robbed of votes
o No contract respected
o Education
o The great migration. African Americans were refugees to the Northern states and to the west coast.
o Clyde Ross was a veteran who had fought for his country but he could not partake in the greatest wealth America had ever known.
• Home ownership led to the greatest accumulation of wealth in the United States.
• African Americans were locked out of home ownership through the Federal Housing Administration.
• Ross bought a house on contract and worked multiple jobs. It became hard to take care of his children.
• In some places in the United States, incarceration rates for African Americans are 40 times as high as that of whites.
• Poor don’t work themselves out of the ghetto. Concentration camps.
• Grim inheritance
• Generations of privilege
• 1783 Belinda Royall. National consensus for reparations.
• Response: counter-argument: they were taught civilization. They are better off.
o No, they were terrorized. They were pinned into ghettoes. Police brutality. Purposely not educated and also undereducated.
• HR 40: study the concept of reparations. Counter-argument: left lunatics.
• (In 2019, 2020 candidates have made this an issue.)
• No broad equality. Singular cases are a façade to pacify people and fool them that there is equality.
• Black plunder:
o Cotton is king.
o 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. The web of this slave society extended north to the looms of New England, and across the Atlantic to Great Britain, where it powered a great economic transformation and altered the trajectory of world history. “Whoever says Industrial Revolution,” wrote the historian Eric J. Hobsbawm, “says cotton.”
o The wealth accorded America by slavery was not just in what the slaves pulled from the land but in the slaves themselves. “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,” the Yale historian David W. Blight has noted. “Slaves were the single largest, by far, financial asset of property in the entire American economy.” The sale of these slaves—“in whose bodies that money congealed,” writes Walter Johnson, a Harvard historian—generated even more ancillary wealth. Loans were taken out for purchase, to be repaid with interest. Insurance policies were drafted against the untimely death of a slave and the loss of potential profits. Slave sales were taxed and notarized. The vending of the black body and the sundering of the black family became an economy unto themselves, estimated to have brought in tens of millions of dollars to antebellum America. In 1860 there were more millionaires per capita in the Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the country.
o Beneath the cold numbers lay lives divided. “I had a constant dread that Mrs. Moore, her mistress, would be in want of money and sell my dear wife,” a freedman wrote, reflecting on his time in slavery. “We constantly dreaded a final separation. Our affection for each was very strong, and this made us always apprehensive of a cruel parting.”
o Forced partings were common in the antebellum South. A slave in some parts of the region stood a 30 percent chance of being sold in his or her lifetime. Twenty-five percent of interstate trades destroyed a first marriage and half of them destroyed a nuclear family.
o Black Wall Street. Mass lynchings. Race riots—where whites were the ones rioting against African Americans.
• GI Bill obsolete for African Americans.
• Whereas shortly before the New Deal, a typical mortgage required a large down payment and full repayment within about 10 years, the creation of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation in 1933 and then the Federal Housing Administration the following year allowed banks to offer loans requiring no more than 10 percent down, amortized over 20 to 30 years. “Without federal intervention in the housing market, massive suburbanization would have been impossible,” writes Thomas J. Sugrue, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania. “In 1930, only 30 percent of Americans owned their own homes; by 1960, more than 60 percent were home owners. Home ownership became an emblem of American citizenship.” THIS IS THE AMERICAN DREAM.

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