"AN AMERICA that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane," writes the indispensable Ta-Nehisi Coates in this month's Atlantic cover story. "An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future." Mr Coates's piece is entitled "The Case for Reparations". In it he does not directly argue that America's government (and, presumably, various state governments) ought to give money to descendants of slaves. Instead, he tries to show the hollowness of believing (his words again) "that a society can spend three-and-a-half centuries attempting to cripple a man, 50 years offering half-hearted aid, and then wonder why he walks with a limp."
Mr Coates roots his piece in North Lawndale, a once-thriving, now-blighted neighbourhood on Chicago's west side. The central figure is Clyde Ross, who like many black Americans in the mid-20th century,...Continue reading