Yesterday, I commented on The Case For Reparations, an article in The Atlantic magazine, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. His arguments for reparations are entirely based on group guilt rather than individual guilt. Yet, a significant portion of his essay focuses on individual black Americans who were wronged, and the groups, rather than individuals, who wronged them, with the exception of a specific British loyalist slave holder. If you wonder, “who is Mr. Coates writing too, via The Atlantic,” we would need to know something more about the readership of that magazine.
The Atlantic has, by far, the oldest readership by median age. Pew research classified 7 magazines by median age of readership from 1995 to 2006. In every year starting with 1997, The Atlantic had the oldest, and in every year they were older than the U.S. adult population. Other magazines in the study were Jet, Newsweek, the New Yorker, Time, The Economist. Yes, in 2006, The Atlantic’s readership was even older than that of The Economist. Since there are no figures I could find regarding the racial composition of any magazine’s readership, I am going to assume, by dint of the age and other descriptions of The Atlantic’s readership, that the majority of the readers are white, liberal leaning, tend to want more detail than readers of most magazines.
Regardless, many of the people Mr. Coates was appealing to are white, and by including lots of individual stories and their sad aftermath, he expected the readers to care about them. There’s a contradiction here. You blame “every aspect of American society” for the present day plight of black Americans, you want reparations to help clean up “white guilt”–group guilt arguments–yet your appeal is to individuals, most of whom are likely to be white i.e. guilty (by virtue of group membership), whom you expect to care about the black individuals who were wronged. I am white, I care about the black individuals who were wronged, I support redress in the form of restitution from the individuals (including board members of corporations) who did the wronging to those who were wronged, but according to your central argument, I am guilty by virtue of being white, therefore I have no reason to care or want to redress the wrongs.
Am I missing something here? He also doesn’t want to focus on details like “who pays”, “how much”, or “to whom.” Since any reparations proposal is going to involve government paying, how will black Americans living now feel about their tax dollars going to other black Americans? Unless, somehow, HR 40 or similar proposals conclude that enforcement officials will have to demand money from only white Americans. No, that won’t divide the country any more than it already is (another of his arguments).