MLK’s Case for Reparations Included Disadvantaged WhitesBreaking News
tags: MLK, reparations
What does white America owe black America? To even broach that question 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 seems straight-out wacky. Did not the election of a black president redeem the nation? At a minimum, it’s rude—refusing to avert the eyes from that elephant in the room: “America begins in black plunder and white democracy.” That’s how Ta-Nehisi Coates deemed it recently in his extraordinary “The Case for Reparations.”
Far from fringe lunacy, the idea of a primal debt was obvious to Martin Luther King Jr. Exactly 50 years ago this month in Why We Can’t Wait, his Harper & Row account of the Birmingham, Ala., protests, he made his own impassioned case for compensation. And yet no matter how much he shared Coates’ desire to square accounts, King would settle on a rival solution for the crimes of slavery and all the forms of racism that succeeded it.
In the rapture of King’s crescendo at the March on Washington, it’s easy to forget the language of bankers that pervaded the first half of “I Have a Dream” (pdf): “America had defaulted on this promissory note” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” One year later, in Why We Can’t Wait, he was not coy about the nation’s “need to pay a long overdue debt to its citizens of color.” He retold the story of his 1959 visit to India, where Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru recounted all the preferential policies that aided the untouchables: “This is our way of atoning for the centuries of injustices we have inflicted upon these people.”
comments powered by Disqus
- Pollution Hurts Some People More Than Others. That’s Been True for Centuries.
- Do U.S. Strikes Send a ‘Message’ to Rivals? There’s No Evidence
- Why President Trump is probably right about the ‘ridiculous standard’ of the first 100 days
- Its location a mystery for centuries, huge Indian city is found in Kansas
- Second parchment manuscript copy of Declaration of Independence found — in England
- Rick Perlstein’s still drawing brickbats for his confession in the NYT that historians (like him) have misinterpreted modern conservatism
- “Historians are shockingly dismissive of people in ‘flyover country,’ ” says Pulitzer-winning historian T. J. Stiles
- UNC history department in uproar after a professor’s course on sports history was cancelled
- French bestseller is a dense history of France written by 122 academics
- ‘Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide’ Uncovers Lost Evidence