Gee: Somebody randomly asked me about reparations

Jun 26, 2019, 5:17 AM
Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates shakes hands with Congressmember Mike Johnson (R-LA) following a House hearing on reparations. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
(Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

A friend of mine was talking to an elderly woman at the National Civil Rights Museum in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis recently. He noticed that the woman was staring at a powerful photo of Reverend King on the wall. Her hand was outstretched to touch it. She had a slow trickling tear that flowed over her cheek.

“What are you feeling right now?” my friend asked.

Her reply was along the lines of: Imagine if every time you got excited about your birthday coming, somebody took your cake. Or maybe you knew you had presents coming, but then someone took them from you. Better yet, maybe people just stared at you and laughed, when all you were doing was celebrating with your family.

You don’t settle on social justice, Colin Kaepernick
Lessons from MLK, and why a good meal is bigger than politics

I bring this up because someone randomly asked me recently how I feel about the topic of reparations for slavery.

Lingering affects of slavery

On June 19, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing to discuss legislation introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas. She’s calling for the creation of a commission to study the lasting effects of slavery and what could be done to address it.

President Donald Trump said in an interview on Monday that he thinks the concept of the federal government giving reparations to the descendants of slaves is “unusual” and “interesting,” but he doesn’t “see it happening.”

So how do I feel about reparations?

Doing nothing is not a solution to this issue. And the idea that every person of color wins the Lottery and takes home some big check isn’t what this issue is about — even if a solid argument could be made that it is deserved.

Some have suggested that a formal apology might be a good start. Yet in 2019 we can’t even say “Black Lives Matter” without someone objecting and pointing out that “All Lives Matter.” Maybe we should say, “Black Lives Matter, too.” Maybe it would be understood more. Let’s talk about that another time.

Ross: US still searches for answers as reparations debate rekindles

Some feel cash is a solution. I don’t.

If people cash those checks, has their silence been bought? Is $500 enough to make you not say a word about the past? How about $10,000, $50,000, or $100,000. What about a million dollars? I don’t know that there is an adequate number.

Reparations in America

So here’s what I would like us to consider as reparations.

What about a federal loan program to give black Americans assistance in buying their first home? What about a free college education? Perhaps a student loan forgiveness program. That way, young black men and women could break free from contributing factors to the cycle of poverty — a cycle their families endured prior to their own lives.

What if individuals could donate money to a fund to make all of this happen? They could receive a tax break or other consideration for helping out.

It’s been often said that if you give someone a fish, they eat for a day. But if you teach them to fish, they eat for life.

But right now, the political will toward reparations, or “teaching people to fish,” barely exists. The issue of reparations feels like getting excited about your birthday, but somebody takes your cake. Or people staring at you and laughing, when all you want to do is celebrate with your family, just like any other American would.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said recently that he opposes paying reparations for slavery, arguing “none of us currently living are responsible” for what he called America’s “original sin.” He also suggested that developments, such as electing Barack Obama president, could be considered a form of compensation. I might have missed the time in 2008 when McConnel was happy about that accomplishment, but I guess since it’s 2019, it works.

McConnell is from Alabama, where a lot of things happened during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Could he really be this naive, or is he among those who weren’t on the side of the movement?

So what do I want? I want the country to invest in black Americans. I do not want a handout. I don’t want a check. I don’t want an apology.

I want to be. I want to grow, and I want the world to be a better place for my children and their children.

I’d like us to have a fair shot at opening up a business and living the American dream. I would like to see more of us own homes. I would like to see those of us who have lived too long behind bars to have a shot at rejoining the population and continuing a legacy.

And like Reverend King, I too have a dream — that the check we do cash will give us the “riches of freedom” and the “security of justice.”  Even if that “check” isn’t a check at all.

KIRO Nights on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to kiro nightsTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 7 pm for KIRO Nights with Jack Stine.

KIRO Nights

KIRO Nights

Seattle Public Schools...
KIRO Nights

Despite early pushback, Seattle Public Schools reaches ‘fantastic’ vaccine mandate compliance

Of Seattle Public Schools' 7,283 full time employees, 99% have received COVID immunizations, and 205 have sought religious or medical exemptions.
1 day ago
Seattle city attorney...
KIRO Nights

Seattle city attorney candidate defends past inflammatory tweets as ‘satire and sarcasm’

Seattle city attorney candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy defends incendiary posts on social media, claims 'Twitter is an inherently satirical and sarcastic.'
20 days ago
vaccination plan, Biden...
Jack Stine

Jack Stine’s six step COVID vaccination plan

KIRO Nights host Jack Stine came up with his own six step plan to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID, focused on a change in messaging.
1 month ago
Vaccine consent, vaccinated protest, lawsuit vaccine mandate...
Jack Stine

Stine: Refusal to get vaccinated is about consent for some

Not wanting to get vaccinated has nothing to do with grand or romantic illusions of a conspiracy, but rather a very basic concept: consent.
2 months ago
Jack Stine

Stine: If I win the COVID vaccine lottery … or any lottery

Lotteries present a tremendous amount of potential for someone to lose themselves from suddenly being endowed with hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
4 months ago
cancel rent...
KIRO Nights

Push to ‘cancel the rent,’ extend moratoriums driven by risk of more homelessness

With eviction moratoriums set to expire at the end of June, some local groups are pushing for the state to cancel rent and help people avoid homelessness.
5 months ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Gee: Somebody randomly asked me about reparations