Sorry Ta-Nehisi Coates, The NAACP’s Reparations Plan Looks Exactly Like What Bernie Sanders Is Proposing

Sorry Ta-Nehisi Coates, The NAACP’s Reparations Plan Looks Exactly Like What Bernie Sanders Is Proposing
February 03 18:47 2016 Print This Article

by Yvette Carnell

In a thinly disguised attempt to generate distrust of Bernie Sanders among black voters, Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic took Sanders to task for supporting redistribution of wealth instead of reparations.

The main problem with Coates’ piece, however, was the glaring omission of specifics. Even in Coates’ lauded essay on reparations, the writer ended with more of a whimper than an instructive bang: He called for the passage of a bill to merely study reparations. Shrug.

If Coates had delved into the meat of the issue with the intellectual ferocity required of a Genius Award recipient, he might not have written the first or second Sanders hit piece.

“This is not a class divide, but a racist divide. Mainstream liberal policy proposes to address this divide without actually targeting it, to solve a problem through category error,” wrote Coates in Bernie Sanders and the Liberal Imagination.

Actually, racism is employed as a tool of capitalism to construct a hierarchy where blacks are on the bottom of the economic ladder. In that sense, racism is a deliberate wedge used to create a class divide.

The question, though, is how do we address this divide? Do Coates and his hangers-on propose that the U.S. government hand out $50,000 checks to all descendants of African slaves? I wouldn’t turn that down, but I understand that a one-time payment wouldn’t do anything to lift poor black people out of poverty.

Could the people in Flint pool their one time payments to repair the city’s water infrastructure? Could the citizens in Baltimore combine their checks and build factories to provide jobs to all citizens? Of course not. They’d most likely end up putting that money right back into the capitalist system that’s exploiting them in the first place. And even if they saved every penny, which is unlikely since poor people have urgent needs, it wouldn’t be enough to pay for the massive infrastructure and welfare investments required to protect people from the booms and busts of capitalism. That requires universal health care, a dramatic reduction in the cost of getting a college education, infrastructure investments, and a massive investment in this country’s dwindling safety net.

Coates may not understand this, but the NAACP’s renewed call for reparations seemed to echo what Sanders outlined in his comments about redistribution.

Here’s what Sanders argued on behalf of when asked about reparations:

..what we should be talking about is making massive investments in rebuilding our cities, in creating millions of decent paying jobs, in making public colleges and universities tuition-free, basically targeting our federal resources to the areas where it is needed the most and where it is needed the most is in impoverished communities, often African American and Latino.

And here’s the NAACP’s plan:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP call upon the United States Government and several foreign countries which participated in or benefited from the African slave trade countries to make such investments to improve the conditions of 2010 African-Americans through better schools, health clinics, job training, environmental cleanup of landfills, and other such environmental injustice to allow the people of color damaged by slavery’s policies to develop the health and economic standards of the entire country.

Both the NAACP and Sanders are advocating for a massive transfer of wealth to poor communities. The kind of money required to pull people out of poverty must come from the government in the form of continued and consistent investments, not just a one time payment.

African-Americans are owed a debt, but the question being asked now is what form of payment should we seek. A material benefit is a material benefit, regardless of whether you call it reparations or redistribution. Coates seems more interested in the cathartic effect of getting a reparations check rather than the long term benefit of massive redistribution from the top to the bottom. That’s not a failure of Bernie Sanders or the liberal imagination. This isn’t a failure of imagination at all. It’s a failure to do basic math.

A YouGov poll found that only six percent of white Americans favor reparations in the form of a cash payment to African-Americans, while only 19 percent favor reparations in the form of education and job training.

Coates would have us believe that reparations is no more of a pipe dream than universal health care. In Why Precisely Is Sanders Against Reparations, he writes:

Considering Sanders’s proposal for single-payer health care, Paul Krugman asks, “Is there any realistic prospect that a drastic overhaul could be enacted any time soon—say, in the next eight years? No.”

Again, Coates gets it wrong. When asked by Gallup in 2015 whether the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that Americans have health care coverage, 51 percent of those polled answered yes. This is actually down from 69 percent approval in late 2006. Would Coates have us believe that an idea with majority support is the equivalent to an idea with almost no support among the majority demographic in this country?

The problem here isn’t that one candidate lacks imagination. It’s that this country’s foremost writer on the issue of race lacks a calculator.

 

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YvetteNew
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8 comments
KeithRollins
KeithRollins

We need massive infrastructure development in the black community, rather than a one-time reparations payment. I hope Ta-nehisi Coates is not comprising.

TinaSue
TinaSue

We will never get reparations as long as racisim exists.  I'm not hopeful.  America can preach morality to other countries; but there's one thing America will never do:  Acknowledge the injustice and damage they committed against Black Americans.  

The least this country could do is give all descendants of American Slavery a free college education.  

BESPECIFIC
BESPECIFIC

The biggest problem with reparations is that no one is actually saying what they would be. It's either money or physical property. So.....what exactly is being asked for?


There is no problem saying reparations are needed, they most certainly could be. The problem is that if you ask one person what they want, it might be just an official apology. Ask another, they may say that every descendant should get 10 million dollars, regardless of current status. How about this, there are plenty of people who look hispanic, chinese, even white. Do they get a piece of it simply because they are 1/10th slave descendent? How do you think african americans would react if a significant chunk of hispanic folks can say they are descendents? What about a white racist souther baptist biggot who is actually half african american and he gets a 50% share of 10 million dollars? Think that would go over well?


Instead of bitching about NOT talking about them, how about saying what is being asked for. Lay out what you would like, shop that around, see how it goes. The way this is being done is the same as saying "we want free pizza" but not specifying that you only want it on Tuesdays', after the parade. 


Stop saying "REPARATIONS NEEDED" and start saying specifically what you are looking for. The folks screaming for reparations will be absolutely shocked when people start picking apart how ineffective any ACTUAL reparations would actually be. As in, after all the dilution, reparations could be $2 each. Is that what they want? 


Again, no problem with it, just be specific. Otherwise, they are just the same as those saying "GET RID OF OBAMACARE" without having a plan to replace it.

4agewise
4agewise

@BESPECIFIC To be specific, the powers that be have figured this out and/or have access to the information from people that have.  In fact, I remember reading about, a man whom proposed the exacts a long time ago.  I believe that's where the term "40 acres and a mule" came into play.  They stall and sabotaged the efforts.  Even now you and others ask these questions, as if, there are not working models that exist today.

To be specific, we can use reparations for poor, lower wage earning, and barely making it lower to middle class earning  "Americans of African decent that can not pass for so called "White" or "any other race"  The rest only need "real" protection, enforced equal opportunity, or a freedom such as diplomatic immunity.

To be specific "Jewish people" don't have to read this nonsense when it comes to their people getting their reparations.  

Specifically, the examples of how and the answers to the "W's" already exist.  

If "American's of African decent that can not pass for White or any other race" are to have reparations, more than reparations have to happen to ensure the working models can work for us. "Americans of African decent that can not pass for White or any other race".     



SKG360
SKG360

Both the B.Sanders and NAACP plans are gentrification on steroids with dash of bath salts.Where in America has the metro area infrastructure been updated, schools built and even new housing erected and white people have NOT taken over the area?There’s no way that black people could stop this gentrification effect from happening w/o access to massive amounts of capital.

At the bare minimum, do the B. Sanders and NAACP “redistribution” plans guarantee that certain percentage of the construction contracts will be awarded to black (not minorities, hump backs, gays,trans, etc.) contractors? If so, how much?

jtabiade
jtabiade

Is it possible to cast a vote for a candidate and not agree with some of his/her positions? Why does it have to be an either/or situation? One can accept Mr. Coates critique of Sanders and still vote for Sanders. Don't expect anything from a candidate if you deem them above criticism. Lastly, Coates has also criticized Hillary Clinton for her views on race:http://www.theatlantic.com/.../hillary-clinton.../427095/ 

shakirazalchemy
shakirazalchemy

Finally. A thoughtful response to the Coates hit piece. I too was disappointed but not so much because of his thin prescription for Reparations but more because I felt he hijacked our best hope for a president that might help us move the bar closer to OUR OWN acknowledgement of a need for Reparations. Why ask a leader to take on our fight when that leader in particular has watched Cong. John Congers introduce HR 40 to Study Reparations every year for the past 25 yrs and the bill never gets out of committee because NONE of US are walking the Halls to lobby their Reps to pass it? That's what the Japanese did to get their Reparations for time spent in internment camps. That's probably what Jews did to get Germany to pay for their holocaust. Why should anyone take the forefront for our battle?

And I don't think we have taken it on because we are in such bad shape after nearly 40 yrs of trickle down economics. We need Sanders to bring some resources to the hood in the form of schools and infrastructure, etc. Once we get some relief, we might be able to sit for five minutes and figure out what kind of repair would best serve us.

sonsofnatturner
sonsofnatturner

How can you be so obtuse as to not be able to see the false argument you are making? The reason the so-called reparations plan of the NAACP and Bernie Sanders are the same is because the NAACP is a sellout organization that relies on the largess of the white establishment so much so that it’s too afraid to stop referring to its constituents as Colored. If anyone should be sorry for a lack of intellect it's you not Ta-Nehisi Coates.