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The Article On Race Every American Should Read

When writer Ta-Nehisi Coates visited Cleveland on a frigid February morning earlier this year, he was blunt when asked about America’s trouble acknowledging race. “You can’t have America without black people,” he said. “Once you understand that, you understand that the black experience is at the core of what it means to be free.”

His latest treatise for The Atlantic magazine, “The Case for Reparations,” throws down the gauntlet on one of the most contentious subjects our nation has grappled with: how to make amends for 250 years of U.S. slavery. “Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap,” he writes. “Reparations would seek to close this chasm.”

But more than simply attaching a monetary figure to the sacrifices African-Americans have made during their tenure in America, Coates, 38, is asking for a moral reckoning: “Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.”

Coates draws from the work of several Anisfield-Wolf winners in crafting his argument (he said that reading Isabel Wilkerson‘s The Warmth of Other Suns was a defining moment for him). Coates’ strategically appeals to our patriotism: We are Americans and we deserve better from our public policy—and each other. His calls for a more just society are strengthened by noting (in great detail) the injustices of the past, incidents unlikely to be found in textbooks. 

Coates appeared recently on PBS’ Moyers & Company to discuss his thesis. The entire segment is worth watching and sharing. Let us know your views. 



  • Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards | How To Teach College Students About Race And Identity: Let Them Lead The Way

    June 9, 2014

    […] and these systems color everything we do, think and see. We must confront the edifice of what Ta-Nehisi Coates recently (and rightfully) called the foundation of white supremacy in the United States, and, arguably, the world.  We need to stop justifying our past, and instead […]

  • Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards | Ta-Nehisi Coates Presents “Case For Reparations” At City Club Of Cleveland

    August 24, 2014

    […] MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry invited Coates onto her eponymous show, while Bill Moyers provided an argument-expounding forum on PBS. But Coates, who brought to the City Club both father, William Paul Coates, and an iPad full of […]

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