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Democrats running for president in 2020 have already endorsed a long list of ambitious, controversial policies: The Green New Deal, Medicare-for-all, free college, the breakup of tech companies, and more. But one proposal belongs in a different category because it would seek to address the gravest injustice in American history. I'm talking about reparations for African-American descendants of slaves.
The idea of compensating Americans whose ancestors were brought to the New World by force and held in bondage for as long as 250 years has been debated numerous times in American history. The most recent case for reparations came in 2014 in the form of a powerful, deeply reported essay in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Democratic presidential hopefuls aiming to stand out from the crowd have begun championing the cause. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and former Obama administration official Julian Castro, are already on board. The fact that David Brooks, a moderately conservative New York Times columnist who has taken recent swipes at both the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all, has now endorsed the policy as well is a sign of just how mainstream it has become.
Case - Reparations - Consequences - Policy - Far
The moral case for reparations may be strong, but the political and cultural consequences of enacting the policy are likely to be extremely high. Far from serving as a moment of moral reckoning and healing for the country, as its advocates contend, it would inspire a severe backlash that would inflame tensions on both sides of the color line — and set the stage for future calls from other groups for acts of public restitution for past injustices. It's a recipe for greatly intensified civic anger and resentment.
As I argued when he first published his essay, Coates' case for reparations was important and compelling — but also wrong-headed.
Coates asserted that...
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