Ta-Nehisi Coates Criticizes Mitch McConnell's Comments On Reparations

Author and journalist, Ta-Nehisi Coates, testified at a hearing on reparations in front of Congress members on Wednesday (June 19th). According to Fox News, Coates criticized Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s claim that reparations are not a "good idea." He explained, "Yesterday when I asked about reparations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a familiar reply: America should not be held liable for something that happened 150 years ago since none of us currently alive are responsible. This rebuttal proffers a strange theory of governance that American accounts are somehow bound by the lifetime of its generations. But well into this century, the United States was still paying out pensions to the heirs of Civil War soldiers. We honor treaties that date back some 200 years despite no one being alive who signed those treaties. Many of us would love to be taxed for the things we are solely and individually responsible for. But we are American citizens and thus bound to a collective enterprise that extends beyond our individual and personal reach."

He continued, "We recognize our lineage as a generational trust, as inheritance, and the real dilemma posed by reparations is just that: a dilemma of inheritance. It is impossible to imagine America without the inheritance of slavery. It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder -- from enslavement. But the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy, respects no such borders. And the guard of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs."

Coates then said, "Majority Leader McConnell cited civil-rights legislation yesterday, as well he should, because he was alive to witness the harassment, jailing, and betrayal of those responsible for that legislation by a government sworn to protect them. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the majority leader."

He added, "The matter of reparations is one of making amends and direct redress but it is also a question of citizenship. In HR-40 this body has a chance to both make good on its 2009 apology for enslavement and reject fair weather patriotism -- to so say that nation is both its credits and its debits. That if Thomas Jefferson matters, so does Sally Hemmings. If D-Day matters so does black Wall Street. That if Valley Forge matters so does Fort Pillow. Because the question really is not whether we will be tied to the somethings of our past, but whether we are courageous enough to be tied to the whole of them."