Coates: We Need to Talk About Sanders' Opposition to Reparations

Ta-Nehisi Coates says the position makes no sense
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2016 2:59 PM CST
Updated Jan 20, 2016 2:11 PM CST
Coates: We Need to Talk About Sanders' Opposition to Reparations
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign event at the Fox Theatre Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Atlanta.   (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Bernie Sanders claims to be the candidate of change, yet he's against reparations for slavery. When asked about it last week, Sanders explained that it's a "very divisive" issue and "its likelihood of getting through Congress is nil." In the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates—a big advocate of reparations—says Sanders' opposition to the idea makes no sense. "Socialist" is a pretty divisive label, and much of Sanders' own platform doesn't pass the "will it get through Congress?" test. Instead of reparations, Sanders says we should work on improving the lives of black Americans through things like free higher education, job creation, decent wages, and investment in communities. Most of those are far from "radical" ideas, and the rest "address black people not so much as a class specifically injured by white supremacy, but rather, as a group which magically suffers from disproportionate poverty."

So Sanders, "the candidate of partisanship and radicalism," has seen that radicalism fail him in "the ancient fight against white supremacy," Coates writes. Modern America was built as black communities were plundered for decades, and "if this is the candidate of the radical left—then expect white supremacy in America to endure well beyond our lifetimes and lifetimes of our children. Reparations is not one possible tool against white supremacy. It is the indispensable tool against white supremacy. One cannot propose to plunder a people, incur a moral and monetary debt, propose to never pay it back, and then claim to be seriously engaging in the fight against white supremacy." Coates notes that his repeated attempts to talk to Sanders before writing his column met with no response. Click for his full piece. (More Bernie Sanders stories.)

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