The article “The Case for Reparations” by Coates investigates the history of racism in America to show how it has influenced and continues to affect the black population of the country.
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The focus on financial limitations and unfair treatment that black people have encountered through the years reveals how influential the racist part of America actually was. Coates’ argument for paying reparations has some grounds to be a sensible suggestion and should be studied further to determine the best way to apologize to black people living in the US.
First of all, the author notes that most of the restrictions put on property and housing for black people were supported or unchallenged by the government. While slavery has ended according to some official documents and statements, unfair treatment of the African-Americans continued to plague the country.
White government officials were influential enough to support the continuous exploitation of black people’s resources, which were supposed to make them citizens and equal members of American society.
As Coates writes that “in 1934, Congress created the Federal Housing Administration,” one can see that the support of segregation came not only from ordinary citizens and individual businessmen. It also was buttressed by institutions, extending the systematic oppression of black people beyond slavery into their lives as free people.
Therefore, their opportunities to gain economic stability were hindered by the system from the very beginning, preventing them from achieving financial independence. This fact can become the basis for the argument for reparations because it reveals the structural injustice that affected black communities of the country on all levels.
Governmental support, accompanied by “private mortgages,” “rated neighborhoods,” and “[Federal Housing Administration] backing” created the environment that could not accommodate black people and help them integrate into society without losses (Coates). Black people could not find a suitable job or get a mortgage to support their children and allow them to have a better future.
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Therefore, the disruption between generations of black people and white people continued to exist under the pressure of unregulated racism. This gap created by years of oppression is hard to eliminate with occasional measures but can be fixed with the help of the government and an initiative that comes from an influential institution.
By supporting racism through active collaboration, negligence, or passive dismissal, the government played a significant role in forming black people’s opportunities for the future.
Moreover, aggression and physical violence against black people that were initiated by groups such as Ku Klux Klan and Red Shirts also were not handled according to the law. Many Klansmen were a part of governmental institutions, which allowed them to further influence the situation in the country by promoting their practices and supporting racist businesses and organizations.
The combination of physical violence and economic destitution did not allow black people to integrate into society, which significantly affected the history of their financial stability.
This discrimination cannot be perceived as an action performed by individual persons because it was regulated by governmental systems of the country. Therefore, the US government has a responsibility to help black Americans and recompense the time and money they spent while trying to become a part of the country.
Coates presents a comparable case of reparations made by the German government to apologize for the Holocaust. The actions of West Germany should be seen as an example of realizing past failures and recognizing responsibilities that were neglected before.
The US government should investigate the roots of oppression that came from officials and influential figures and affected a significant portion of the country’s residents and consider making a change that could benefit not just separate individuals but the nation as a whole.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic, June 2014.