The Atlantic’s article by Ta-Nehisi Coates on reparations is an absolute must-read for anyone who claims to have an informed opinion about racial matters. For that matter, it’s a must read for anyone with an interest in quality writing or American history.
Several portions of the piece jumped out at me for their potential to serve as an excerpt, but I’ve resisted the temptation. To summarize it in chunks is an injustice. And doing injustice to an article about injustice is, well, that would be too much irony for a weekend.
Coates’ article is a unique game-changer. No one has ever assembled the complex history of American race relations in such a sound, succinct, accessible package. Whatever you may think about reparations, this article is a master work. This article is going to resonate for a long time.
There is one essential accompaniment to any discussion of Coates’ article. This explainer from NPR on “how to tell who hasn’t read the new Atlantic cover story” is indispensable. In summary, the three clues are:
1. They talk a lot about slavery
2. They talk about the logistics of reparations
3. They talk about affirmative action or welfare
By the way, the pitiful effort at a reply published by the National Review is notable for including two those tells while completely dodging the bulk of Coates’ case.