Facing a chorus of condescending criticism from liberal pundits who ought to think harder, Ta-Nehisi Coates recently linked to a paper on the practicalities reparations, how these might actually work for African Americans whose lives are impoverished and constrained by the US history of slavery, oppression, violence and Jim Crow. I decided to read it and share.
Coates has made his case for reparations in 2014 in this article. It's worth reading.
Critics of reparations like to say or imply something like -- well, yes, reparations might be a good idea, but there are so many unanswered questions. Economists William A. Darity and Dania Frank identify four conundrums which could be clarified if we'd try.
- How to determine who would be eligible? After all, if being African-American might get you something material, wouldn't there be a rush to affirm an ancestry that some people had been denying? They answer:
- What sort of reparations programs could there be? How should benefits be distributed? Darity and Frank list many possibilities: "lump sum payments," a "trust fund" making grants for asset building programs like home ownership, "vouchers" that could be used for asset building such as additional education, or "in kind promises" guaranteeing schooling beyond high school or medical insurance, or payments to build "entirely new" black community institutions to promote "collective well-being." There is a wide menu of possiblities.
- Where's the money going to come from? Financing could come from taxes or government borrowing. Daritty and Frank note:
- How large should reparations payments be? Darrity and Frank present various estimates of the wealth to white Americans extracted from slavery and subsequent exploitation of black individuals. They come up with numbers in the trillions of dollars and conclude