Community & Government

Why I Don’t Want Reparations

John McWhorter shares why he sees reparations as impractical. From affirmative action to sending checks to Black organizations, reparations have, he notes, existed in some form or another for generations with varying degrees of success.

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Topics include: Affirmative Action as Reparations • A Very Impractical Idea

Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.

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- HR 40 would create a commission to study the history of slavery in America, the role of the federal and state governments in supporting slavery and racial discrimination, other forms of discrimination against the descendants of slaves, and the lingering consequences of slavery and Jim Crow on African-Americans. Enacting HR 40 would be an important step in finding effective long-term solutions to these problems, ones that can trace their origins to our nation's shameful history of slavery and anti-Black racism. [MUSIC PLAYING] - My name is John Hamilton McWhorter V. John Hamilton McWhorter I was a slave. I happen to know that. John Hamilton McWhorter II might as well have been one. There is one photo of him. Very old people remember one thing about him. Apparently, he had a very abrupt, terse way of speaking. Somebody said, well, he would just kind of go "bup." That's all anybody remembers about him. And it's almost literarily symbolic. First one-- no photograph. You can go online and find where he was and have a faint echo where you can tell that that's who they mean. And you actually know what the plantation was. And I think about it. How would he feel about his-- what would it be-- great, great, great-- no, just great-great-grandson getting money that he wasn't paid? Now, what everybody might be thinking is, yes, but he's a college-- okay, but let's say that I was a postman. I get money that he wasn't paid. I think he'd feel a little funny about that. Of course, I can't know. But I know that down on my end, I just feel like it's been too long. I don't want reparation for that, as hideous as it was. I never knew him. He doesn't know me. We have nothing in common. Now, opinions are going to differ there. I completely understand that. I wouldn't want that money, but many people would say, it's the principle of the thing. A lot of my resistance to the idea of new reparations-- and I think it's important that we call it that, new reparations-- and especially reparations that would be in the form of payments to individuals-- and that's one of many plans, but that one never seems to completely go away-- is just the amount of time. And I don't know where you draw the line. But if this were being discussed in 1899, and we're talking about my slave ancestors who I maybe would have known or I knew people who knew, sure. I'm not against the idea of reparations in general. But if we're talking about something that happened so long ago that there's nobody alive who knew anybody who knew the people in question, for me, it's just-- it's too long. [MUSIC PLAYING] - But we want everyone to know that affirmative action is not reverse discrimination, as many persons are apt to say. It is rather the recognition of the fact that for over 200 years, Black persons in the United States of America have been excluded from the economic, social, and political milieu of this great country. We want to further say...

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From critical race theory to the 1619 Project, Black intellectuals are reshaping conversations on race in America. Now seven of those preeminent voices share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future. Gain a foundational understanding of the history of white supremacy and discover a path forward through the limitless capacity and resilience of Black love.

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Angela Davis, Cornel West, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Sherrilyn Ifill, Jelani Cobb, and John McWhorter

Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.

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