26 May 2014
Signs of overt racism are still prevalent in America, evident in a New Hampshire police commissioner’s use of an ethnic slur to describe President Obama. Despite the media highlighting the problem and people shaking their heads in disbelief, the problem of racism is rarely, if weakly addressed.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, thinks it’s time for a bold step to change the way people talk and think about race in America. Bill Moyers speaks to Coates about his June cover story for the magazine, provocatively titled “The Case for Reparations.”
In it, Coates argues that Americans have to dig deeper into their past and the original sin of slavery, confronting the institutional racism that continues to pervade society. From the lynching tree to today’s mass incarceration of young African-Americans, he says we need to examine our motives more intently and reconcile the moral debt and economic damage inflicted upon generations of black Americans.
For one, Coates points to a century of racist and exploitive housing policies that made it hard for African-Americans to own homes and forced them to live in poorer neighborhoods with unequal access to a good education, resulting in a major wealth gap between black and white. In fact, the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households, according to a Pew Research Center study.
© Moyers & Company