Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.  If you broadcast our audio commentaries please consider a recurring donation to Black Agenda Report.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Blackwashing, the Reparations Brand, and a Last Refuge For Scoundrels

  • Sharebar
    Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

    A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

    No sensible person should doubt the fundamental justice of arguments for reparations for the historic crimes of slavery, Jim Crow, and today's prison state. Accomplishing reparations would require a massive political realignment. But is reparations today a political movement, or is it an empty brand available for African American public figures in need of a little blackwashing?

    Ta-Nehisi Coates, Blackwashing, the Reparations Brand, and a Last Refuge For Scoundrels

    A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

    Why is Ta Nehisi Coates suddenly a public reparista, and what does this say about the reparations movement?

    Back in the day when black politicians used to fall out of favor, their friends ratting each other out before grand juries and prosecutors combing their personal records for evidence of wrongdoing, the standard thing for the political figure to do was to get very publicly right with Jesus. The church, after all, seems to never turn anybody down.

    Nowadays a disgraced black politician is as likely to blacken herself up with a public embrace of reparations in addition to the old confession of religious faith. Like the church, all one has to do to join the reparations movement is to make that confession of faith, a kind of secular Shahada.

    Nobody here at Black Agenda Report disagrees with the fundamental justice of the case for reparations. But it's a just cause with a huge problem. Reparations for the descendants of slaves, the victims of historic Jim Crow and the current prison state is an immense political project. But apart from a single piece of legislation and a few lawsuits over the last 30 years, reparistas seem to take no responsibility for proposing, discussing or advancing even the sketchiest of political roadmaps to bring us to reparations.

    I'm a lifelong socialist, somebody who believes political mountains can and must be moved. But when proponents of reparations don't even try to discuss what the needed political coalitions might look like, what sectors of society we need to win over to make reparations happen, or how many years or decades all this might take, are they acting like a political movement, or like something else? What kind of political movement advances no measures, discusses no plans, takes no responsibility for advancing its own just cause? The answer is that movements don't behave like that at all. But brands do.

    Brands neither say what they mean, nor mean what they say. Brands are stories, brands are narratives contrived to get specific emotional reactions, to pull real or imagined memories, sights, smells or feelings from a target audience. To do this brands operate outside of and independent from fact and/or logic. Reparations is not a movement, it's a brand.

    A centerpiece of the reparations brand is the study bill that Rep. John Conyers has introduced in every one of the last dozen Congresses except the 110th and 111th. In those two Congresses, Rep. Conyers, with four decades of seniority finally chaired the powerful House Judiciary Committee with the ability to make demands or cut deals to move the study bill, or at least the discussion of reparations. If reparations was a political project instead of a brand, he would have done just that. But Conyers put the reparations study bill in his desk drawer until Republicans re-took the House and he no longer had that power. Safely back in the minority again in early 2011, he re-introduced the reparations study bill once more.

    After five and a half years of the Obama presidency, during which the problems of black America were ignored and in some cases made worse, some of his black enablers and apologists feel the need to get their ghetto passes re-stamped. Wrapping themselves in the reparations brand is their way of asserting fictive allegiance to African Americans along with some imaginary distance from the president. If Wal-Mart and BP pretending to be environmentally responsible is greenwashing, this is blackwashing.

    Polls indicate that a majority of African Americans do favor reparations. But in the absence of a reparations movement with discussions of plans and strategies against which to measure progress and performance, reparations is only a brand, available for scoundrels to hide behind whenever their faces need blackwashing, and their ghetto passes need re-stamping. Today it's Mr. Coates. Tomorrow? Well...

    For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and subscribe to our free weekly email updates at www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe. That's www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe.

    Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or emailed directly at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

    Your browser doesn't support flash. Click the mic instead to download.

    Share this

    Coates Thinks that Obama and Malcom X are the Same Person

    Coates wrote that the legacy of Malcolm X (a Muslim) lives on in President Obama (a man who blows up a lot of Muslims)

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/05/the-legacy-of-malcol...

    After President Obama blew up American citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Samir Khan, Coates wrote in the New York Times that he was deeply concerned---deeply concerned about how this would affect the president's feeling.

    Mr. Coates is, to borrow one of his favorite expressions, "oozing with privilege".

     

    Has Coates even mentioned

    Has Coates even mentioned Martin Luther King's solution, Basic Income?

    As a socialist, I think of socialism as reparations for the entire working class, but that's just me.

    One more problem with the theory of reparations: Do the descendants of black slaveowners get reparations too?

    Very thought provoking

    Very thought provoking article, you broached some very power issues and brought a very esoteric way of looking at the new "trendy" topic of reparations. I was trying to do some research on Rep Conyers but couldn't find anything clear on his voting record. Can you all give some links to see when he didn't push the HR 40? Thank you and once again, very powerful article.

    Thanks for Black Agenda Report

    this is one of the best articles on this website. definitely excellent information and hope to read more about
    WP Profit Builder Review . awesome. this is the information i have been searching

    nfl jerseys kate spade

    nfl jerseys
    kate spade bags
    michael kors outlet online sale
    canada goose outlet
    cyber monday sales
    cheap oakley sunglasses
    moncler outlet
    canada goose black friday 2014
    ugg australia
    cyber monday sales
    hollister
    louis vuitton outlet online
    dior outlet
    versace
    michael kors bags
    north face jackets
    the north face outlet
    burberry outlet
    abercrombie & fitch
    christian louboutin outlet
    cheap ugg sale
    true religion outlet
    rayban sunglasses
    louis vuitton outlet
    celine bags
    ugg boots
    burberry outlet
    louis vuitton outlet
    burberry outlet
    black friday 2014
    michael kors black friday 2014
    louis vuitton
    louis vuitton outlet
    coach outlet store online
    fitflops
    burberry bags
    toms outlet
    moncler outlet
    polo ralph lauren
    mont blanc pens
    coach black friday 2014
    louis vuitton outlet
    michael kors outlet
    gucci shoes
    ugg australia
    coach black friday 2014
    ghd
    ralph lauren
    dolce gabbana outlet
    mulberry outlet
    canada goose outlet stores
    alexander wang outlet
    ugg australia
    louis vuitton outlet
    cheap oakley sunglasses
    ugg boots
    prada bags
    canada goose outlet online
    tory burch shoes
    louis vuitton handbags
    abercrombie
    marc jacobs outlet
    bottega veneta handbags
    goose jackets
    coach factory outlet
    michael kors bags
    christian louboutin
    hogan outlet
    coach outlet store online
    fendi bags
    christian louboutin shoes
    rayban sunglasses
    coach factory outlet
    cheap nfl jerseys
    ugg boots outlet
    jimmy choo outlet
    celine bags
    p90x
    north face jackets
    ugg boots clearance
    michael kors outlet
    guess outlet
    fitflops
    cheap jerseys
    hermes belts
    coach outlet store online
    belstaff
    jordan shoes
    the north face jackets
    cyber monday
    timberland outlet
    lululemon
    coach factory outlet
    abercrombie & fitch
    burberry bags
    hermes outlet
    hollister
    michael kors handbags
    gucci handbags
    ugg australia
    fitflops outlet
    michael kors bags
    chanel handbags
    cyber monday ads
    louis vuitton outlet
    jordans 11
    cyber monday
    abercrombie & fitch
    michael kors outlet
    givenchy outlet
    chi flat iron
    toms outlet
    true religion outlet
    uggs sale
    nike outlet
    michael kors outlet online
    insanity workout
    gucci handbags
    ferragamo outlet
    cheap uggs
    supra outlet
    moncler outlet
    juicy couture outlet
    marc jacobs outlet
    ugg for sale
    tory burch handbags

    Clicky Web Analytics