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Ta-Nehisi Coates reparations
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Ross: US still searches for answers as reparations debate rekindles

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates testifies during a hearing on slavery reparations held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Should the United States pay reparations for slavery? Eighteen years ago, there was a formal debate on the issue held at Boston University. Among those on the anti-reparation side were two black Americans — Deroy Murdock, and Glenn Loury — who argued reparations would hurt black progress.

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“Instead reparations reinforce the stereotype that we are a benighted, bedraggled and bamboozled people who need Whitey’s money,” said Murdock.

And it would backfire. Because from then on, whenever minorities complained of discrimination, reparations would be used as a shield.

“Yes, interesting point, but you know what?  You … have been paid,” said Loury.

Then, the audience voted.

“The House has divided, and I declare the negative the winner,” declared the moderator.

Reparations lost.

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Fast forward 18 years to yesterday, when a subcommittee on Capitol Hill held a hearing to consider setting up a reparations commission.

From Rev. Eugene Sutton — Episcopal Bishop of Maryland — came the moral argument that reparations paid to black people would actually help white people more.

“You need this more than we do. You need this to be able to look black persons in the eye and say I acknowledge the mistake and I want to be part of the solution [to repair that damage].”

And while you’d think the issue might cool down over time, it looked to me like the passions were even more intense than they were 18 years ago.

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