Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic, recently spoke with Bill about his new cover article for the magazine “The Case for Reparations.” You can view the full interview here, but we’ve also cut extra clips from their conversation, which were just too good to leave on the cutting room floor.
The Elementary School Experience That Changed Him
Coates recounts an after-school fight that he witnessed as a child in which another child pulled out a gun in a 7-Eleven parking lot and brandished it. “When you think about the moment that your world is different, that was the moment,” Coates tells Moyers.
On Black vs. White Neighborhoods
Coates says to understand African-American communities today, you need to look at the legacy of our discriminatory housing policies. “We didn’t want integration … It’s not just white people being bigoted. It’s not a disease of the heart. It is that we had certain policies that guaranteed that that was going to be the result. And here we have it.” Coates points to sociologist Patrick Sharkey’s research that finds an African-American family earning $100,000 a year on average will live in a neighborhood that is comparable to a white family that makes $30,000 a year.
On Chicago’s Scam Housing Loans
The practice of redlining made it nearly impossible for most African-Americans in Chicago to secure mortgages in the 1960s. “Contract sellers” jumped in to fill the void giving eager first-time buyers an opportunity to “purchase” a home under miserable terms, which led almost all black families at the time to be evicted from their homes. Coates explains that the “rinse and repeat” process of contract lending relied on fear tactics to get white homeowners to sell.
The Messages America Sends to Black Children
Coates tells Moyers that African-American kids get messages from our society — through television and community policing practices, for example — that equates young black children to second-class citizens. “You take a message if you’re living in New York and you’re walking down the block and you’re regularly stopped and frisked,” Coates says.
On America’s Heritage and Reparations
Coates says that when Americans reflect on their collective history they in effect, cherry pick, by only recognizing the past when it flatters us. “We’re deluding ourselves. We are trying not to open our bills. We only want to open our paychecks that come from the past. But the bill is accumulating. And it’s all around us.”
Featured images: 1) Ta-Nehisi Coates 2) White homeowners in 1969 Chicago formed block clubs, designed to keep the neighborhood white. Credit: AP Photo/JLP 3) Civil rights marchers enter west-of-Chicago suburb in Cicero, Ill., on September 4, 1966. Credit: AP Photo 4) Justin Williams, 6, center, waits with his grandmother Denise Robinson, left, before the start of a silent march to end the “stop-and-frisk” program in New York, Sunday, June 17, 2012. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig 5)The Freedom Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, march with the colors during the annual 4th of July Parade in The Woodlands, Texas. Credit: AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Brett Coomer