Saturday, May 17, 2014

What will Ta-Nehisi Coates say that white America owes to black America?

A teaser for his forthcoming cover story in The Atlantic is here.

I have never understood the reasoning behind reparations for slavery but not for Jim Crow. There are no living victims or perpetrators of antebellum slavery, but there are plenty of living victims of Jim Crow. Maybe TNC's scheme will attempt to account for these.

When you get your living and indeed your very identity from presenting yourself as a grappler with some issue or other, the last thing you want to do is solve the issue. Let's say that reparations would involve a massive transfer of wealth to blacks from non-blacks, racial set-asides in government representation, public and private jobs, and university admissions, maybe some sort of get out of jail free card for black criminals, and just about any other goodie that the racial avengers could think up & bully the rest of us into going along with. What do you think would happen after that? Would that be the end of the Civil Rights Movement? Would we all come together at a summit and say "There," air checkmark..."all done!" Of course not! New grievances would be wailed over; new adjectives with which to prefix "racism" would be trotted out ("invisible racism", "unconscious racism", and now "elegant racism"), the Left would continue its present trajectory of screaming louder and louder about less and less. And dissidents, of all colors, would be studiously ignored or vigorously attacked.

And there is nothing uniquely black or white about this. Revolutionaries, which pampered academic leftists so frequently imagine themselves to be, usually act as if the ground ahead of them is virgin soil. Edmund Burke said as much more than two centuries ago:

With them it is a sufficient motive to destroy an old scheme
because it is old. As to the new one, they are in no sort of fear with
regard to the duration of a new building run up in haste; because
duration is no object to those who think little or nothing has been
done before their time.
-- Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France

It's as if the Great Society trillions of dollars never happened, nor all the civil rights legislation, nor the more than half a million Civil War dead. In part it's due to the climate of the times; the Left has successfully mauled the universities and thereby much of our nation's intellectual discourse into its own rigid template. If all human interaction throughout history consists of an oppressor and a victim, then of course the moral high ground lies with the victim, and thus we have the current campus imperative to prove oneself a victim, in order to maintain a passing grade, tenure track or employment. And of course all racism is in the sole eye and judgment of its self-proclaimed victims. So there will be a very long line indeed for these reparations. There was a very long line to join Native American tribes decades ago, once there began to be federal money connected with belonging to those ethnicities. How much of the reparations movement is driven by a quest for justice, and how much by the scent of cash money? It's probably forbidden to even ask that question on campus nowadays.

A typical Ta-Nehisi Coates race column nowadays is rather samey at times. A current event deemed to be deplorable is duly deplored, the animating cause of which is laid to the racism deemed to be constant, like the speed of light, and pervasive, like nitrogen. This is followed by relating a historical atrocity or five, seemingly selected by free association, juxtaposing it to the current event, and then wrapping up as if anything, anything at all, had been illuminated or proved. I'll be disappointed if this forthcoming feature doesn't have more meat on its bones than that.

Five decades? Six? Seven? How long should it take to understand that the life of a community cannot be reduced to politics or wholly encompassed by government?
The time in which we live has unfathomable depths beneath it. Our age is a mere film on the surface of time.
--Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, November 1916