Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay, The Case for Reparations, has been published to great fanfare. By journalistic standards it is a massive tome which does not deliver on the promise of “groundbreaking” original content. Nevertheless, in light of the noisy discussion the article has generated, it is worth examining the article’s actual content and considering its merits.
On my assessment, the essay accomplishes three things, one good, one bad, and one ugly. His argument for the contemporary relevance of historical racism is arresting and thought-provoking. This is the best part of the piece. The argument for reparations is unpersuasive, but perhaps (as Kevin Williamson has suggested) instructively so; by spelling out the argument for reparations Coates illustrates how weak it actually is.
Regrettably, much of the essay is really devoted to honey-tongued pandering to the pathologies of the left. This is unfortunately the part that most thrills Coates’ ecstatic admirers.