Thursday Talk*: Reparations? Nikole Hannah-Jones Says Now

She works for the New York Times. She twits under the name Ida Bae Wells. And she won a Pulitzer Prize for making up a story that may be taught to your children, but just isn’t factually true. Her name is Nikole Hannah-Jones and she wants money.

It feels different this time.

And for the moment, it does. Hannah-Jones runs through the litany of black suffering, from being chattel to having a fraction of the accumulated family wealth. She offers studies to show that it’s not because black people are lazy or stupid, squandered their earnings or failed to put in the effort to achieve success. She offers other studies to show how racial discrimination has impacted black people to burden them, to cheat them out of their due, and then burden them some more.

Whether her descriptions are accurate, or sufficiently accurate, will be parsed by more knowledgeable people than me, from historians to statisticians. One of the problems with forfeiting integrity for the cause is that you’re no longer credible. Hannah-Jones isn’t credible. But that doesn’t make her wrong, and even if half her story isn’t factual, that doesn’t make racism go away.

After her lengthy discussion of suffering, she finally gets to her point.

So we are left with a choice. Will this moment only feel different? Or will it actually be different?

If black lives are to truly matter in America, this nation must move beyond slogans and symbolism. Citizens don’t inherit just the glory of their nation, but its wrongs too. A truly great country does not ignore or excuse its sins. It confronts them and then works to make them right. If we are to be redeemed, if we are to live up to the magnificent ideals upon which we were founded, we must do what is just.

It is time for this country to pay its debt. It is time for reparations.

And with that, we’ve shifted from protecting black lives from the needless and wrongful killing by police to money. If black lives truly matter, we will give them reparations.

The question of reparations is one fraught with other questions. I’ve argued that it’s a subject that is worthy of consideration, although I have severe doubts that we are a nation capable of discussion anymore. We’re welcome to shut up and listen to lectures, mostly by “allies” who do the talking on behalf of the oppressed because they shouldn’t be put to the burden of having to exhaust themselves to explaining, but not express a position. Now that Hannah-Jones, among others, has informed us that reparations are due, is there anything left to discuss?

But there are questions. A lot of them, even though asking them is frowned upon in woke society. Who gets reparations? Surely those who were brought here by slavers, but they’re long gone. So their progeny? Who are they? How do we tell, or is their assertion of ancestry good enough? Does it matter what’s happened to them, their families, over the last 150 years?

What about black people whose ancestors didn’t come off slave ships, but jet planes? If they chose to come here to seek their fortunes, do they get to claim the benefit for those who came in chains?

And who pays? Old WASP families who enjoyed the benefit of their slaves seems obvious, but what about families that came here a generation ago, fleeing their own persecution, and treated like dirt when they arrived? Sure, they didn’t suffer anywhere near as much as slaves, but do they get a recent arrival discount?

How much would reparations be? Millions? Billions? Per person or altogether? And even if we agreed that this is different, would there be a next time, a hundred years from now, when the claim was this was insufficient, a failure to reckon, and we need to do it again “if black lives truly matter”? Is this a hurdle that, no matter what the decision, can ever be surmounted?

*Yes, it’s Thursday, not Tuesday, but let’s not be slaves to the calendar. Tuesday Talk rules apply.

40 thoughts on “Thursday Talk*: Reparations? Nikole Hannah-Jones Says Now

  1. PseudonymousKid

    We’re not all capable of discussion even if something is worthy of it. These are the end times, the sky is falling, all of that. Reparations are too polarizing still. We might never be ready to even talk about it seriously. With the death of discussion comes the death of any hope of finding common ground and acting on it. We’ll be lucky if we even get disastrous police reform, let alone something that would be positive even in this more motivated climate.

    Doom and gloom is the forecast. For what little it’s worth yours and other’s reasoning has at least moved me to the “let’s talk about reparations” group. Robin Hood always did fascinate me as a child, so I guess it was inevitable. We’re taxing the rich to give reparations to only poor blacks, right? Damn my assumptions.

        1. SHG Post author

          You can, but I’m not going to fix it for you so it plays properly. And it was a bit obvious, PK, and could pretty much apply to everything lately.

  2. L. Phillips

    A large group of some kind, whether private or governmental, is going to have to manage the payment(s). The vig will be truly impressive.

    1. SHG Post author

      About those governmental payments, you’re going to really be upset when you learn where they come from.

  3. Erik H

    Note that reparations don’t go to those who are black, much less the specific (and smaller) subset of “black people who are descendants of US slaves.” Rather they go to those people who identify as black for the last 10 years, wherever they are from, whatever their background.

    Rachel Dolezal getting reparations? Who woulda thunk?

    But the real problem with Hannah-Jones, as you note, is that she can’t be trusted. Once she demonstrated her willingness to cherry-pick and misreport facts, then even those things become questionable: these purportedly fact-filled, quotation-filled articles are as reliable as a political ad.

    1. SHG Post author

      The irony of your snark is that as much as the same cohort is big on the identifying thing, I suspect that black people will not be as tolerant when it comes to who gets the money. Suddenly, race will no longer be a social construct.

  4. grberry

    I have a modest proposal for an easy way to do this well. Just give us a few dozen years to do all the analysis to get the details of who is actually deserving to pay and receive right.

    First, we’ll need to hire a small army of genealogists to document everyone’s ancestry back to the later of immigration to this country of founding of European colonies in this country.

    Then we’ll need universal DNA testing of all living people and all recently deceased people – whose graves of course will be dug up to do this – to verify that what the paperwork claimed is what happened. We’ll need another small army of lab techs and analysts to work on this data. This will all be put into a single government database. Access to it by the police won’t be an issue because we will have defunded the police.

    Meanwhile genealogists can be looking back at the old records to see exactly who actually owned slaves, took part in slave trading, or was a slave when. The massive data gaps created by records never existing, being lost to natural disaster, or burned in the Civil War or other fire certainly won’t be a problem since we’ll set the physicists to creating time machines and robotic probes to go back and do the needed data gathering. Fortunately since the latest lie is that fighting to free slaves doesn’t matter, we don’t need to score the goodness of working on the Underground Railroad, being an abolitionist, or even fighting on the Union side in the Civil War.

    While that is going on all the rational discussion will no doubt produce a simple an easily agreed upon algorithm for the transmission down the generations of culpability for guilt and benefit for having been a victim.

    With all that data we’ll then apply the simple and easily agreed upon culpability and benefit scoring algorithm to everyone simultaneously, working down chains of descendants to get to a net score for all living people. Then we tax/reward everyone all at once, and we are done. The fact that half of American adults, never mind babies, don’t actually have a positive wealth won’t be a problem. We can just enslave them and take all the fruits of their labor until they have paid up, with interest.

    1. B. McLeod

      We also need to make sure that proper differentiation is made between descendants of slaves. Those who are also descendants of slave masters need to be excluded from reparations. Further, those whose ancestors, out of cowardice, declined to throw off the yoke of slavery, but labored to support the Confederate war effort, should pay war reparations. They helped to necessitate considerable national expenditures, and carry the inter-generational guilt for hundreds of thousands of dead Union soldiers. It is well past time for them to apologize to descendants of Union veterans, and to pay up. (As evolving standards have since established, “only following orders” provides them no defense or excuse for their ancestors’ conduct).

    2. Jon Justin

      If we had a time machine we could use it to go back and prevent slaves from every coming here. Simply by showing some of the key people of the time the future this boneheaded idea created for their descendants.

      Nobody who witnessed the horrors of the Civil War or the 160 years of constant racial strife since turning slaves loose on American society as political equals could ever support the idea of bringing chattel slavery into the realm of Christendom.

      It has been apocalyptic far beyond the imaginations of even the Negative Nancys like Cotton Mather.

        1. Jon Justin

          I’m not sure what your comment even means. Western Civ = Christendom.

          Of course, if reparations were due to all victims of slavery regardless of cultural baggage of history, then we’d have to harangue and pester the Islamic horde for their far larger scale of the slave trade.

          But that doesn’t suit the enemies of Christendom (you see, there is a religious aspect to it, since this animosity is directed ONLY at the gentile world, disregarding Old Testament prescriptions for slavery as well.

  5. B. McLeod

    Yes, the hysteria has quickly gone from notions of police reform to a scattering of demands about movies, statues, and “reparations.” Not so much losing focus as having never really had one. So it is grinding down to the disintegration point once again, with maybe a few police reforms in a few places, and s bunch of destroyed property.

  6. Richard Kopf


    When I am deeply distressed and depressed by stupid and inane opinion writers from the NYT who make dishonesty a high art form and also a public virtue (like Ms. Hannah-Jones), I look for solace in the back pages of the paper of record. Today, I found just the thing: “The Secret to Perfect Pizza at Home? Cast Iron.”

    All the best.


    1. B. McLeod

      Your Honor, if you can find the latest issue of The World at War magazine, it ends with an informative article about how SPAM saved the world.

        1. LocoYokel

          Rabbit!?!? Where?

          Honestly, that’s been open in my browser for a couple of months. I’m wanting to try it.

          1. B. McLeod

            A Shaolin monk, a Catholic priest and a rabbit walk into a bar. The barman says to the rabbit, “What’ll you have?” Then the rabbit says, “I don’t know. I’m just here because of autocorrect. “

      1. Richard Kopf


        I think this is a fake Atlantic article. As count ’em, there only nine paragraphs.

        All the best.


  7. Dan

    “It is time for this country to pay its debt. It is time for reparations.”

    We have already, to the tune of trillions of dollars. But she’s likely ignorant of, or dishonest about (and my money would be on the latter, given her history) the War on Poverty. When is it enough?

    Rhetorical question, of course. It will never be enough. Just as there is no atonement or forgiveness with the Marxists, it will only be “enough” when the entire nation has collapsed.

  8. John Barleycorn

    There are forty-one million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-seven non-Hispanic blacks and Multiracial African Americans in this country, not named after our esteemed host. 

    And in our republic the overall average lifetime earnings, taking education into account, will land you somewheres around 1.5 million before taxes.

    So, what’s the problem? 

    Multiply the above and you only get a meager sixty-two trillion, nine hundred ninety-nine billion, nine hundred ninety-five million, five hundred  thousand.

    Chump change…. coming in at three times GDP, seventeen times federal yearly tax revenue  and a little under two times the capitalization of the  republic’s  stock market of which sixty percent is owned by the richest one percent of our population and two point five percent by country’s police pension funds.
    We are all in this together except those poor black kids named after our esteemed host, so again, what’s the problem?

    All the Fed has to do is sell some save black lives bonds to the nation’s teachers pension funds and Voilà!!!

    I mean really! What’s the problem!!!

    Hell, the average price earnings ration is just about 38% and has been for years right….. You wouldn’t even have to be able to read to get this past a few congressional committees in a day or two.

    Speaking of reading, it looks like it is not just our esteemed host and those poor black kids who were named after him who are starting to get scared:

    Even if you do have a “problem”, who gives a fuck anymore?! 😉

    The kiddos will have to sort it out in a few years anyway and they are not gonna get all bent out of shape about a few more tens of trillions on the debt pile anyway.

    And besides according to my math-s the great American class war will be kicking off right about then anyway. 

    I love this fucking country, but I would definitely buy me a few tractors if I were you….

    P.S. Greenfield can’t do math-s when his brain gets-a-stuck but his “feels” are cool I guess….

      1. John Barleycorn

        Alrighty then… but you better be sending birthday and graduation cards or under audit there will be a special penalty involved.

        BTW, what kind of guy doesn’t leave at least a letter behind and in addition line-item out a book or two, or a watch even, in his will to the kids who are named after him?

        The delayed comprehension alone of such simple gestures can be profound, you know… and besides, it could be that you might find yourself having to go pretty deep into the relationship bench to get yourself some grandchildren, which-if you didn’t know- will soon be a requirement to qualify for Medicare.

        And yes, you will need Medicare seeing as how the probability of early onset dementia is a bit high in your case due to a lack of alcohol consumption, lack of deiseal exhaust inhalation, and consuming way too much maple bacon donut frosting made with corn syrup instead of cane sugar.

        And lets face it, the math-s of the actuarial life and tax tables, are definitely starting to say that the republic is gonna need lots-and-lots-and-lots of them there grandchildren, and for some reason there aren’t enough of them to go around according the math-s, less the current price/ earnings ration payments, of course.

        And this can mean only one thing, tax enhancements for no grandchildren. Who-woulda-thunk-it eh?

        It’s all cool though, because if it is not clear to you yet, everything and I mean everything, is the responsibility of the unborn when the living, in their minds eye, are just along for the ride.

  9. Jake

    Reparations? I’ve had enough! I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

    1. SHG Post author

      You do realize your job could have gone to a marginalized person had you not sucked it all up with your white male supremacy, right?

        1. SHG Post author

          Ah, the slacktivist solution, thinking about your white skin privilege, enjoying your fabulous wealth and hot chicks just because of your pale skin color. That’s like 97.3% of the way to actually doing something. You’re my favorite white savior.

    2. Miles

      I wasn’t sure about reparations until I read this, Jake, but now I can’t wait to pay because you made such a compelling argument for them.

  10. Ben

    Why is there a statute of limitations in civil claims1,2?

    There must be a reason, probably more than one. Perhaps those reasons apply here too. (Something about there being a reason for the rule, and the reason being a principle more broadly applicable than the rule?)

    If it’s allowed under TT rules, I’ll take this proposition seriously for a moment. Any reasonable scheme must be anchored by some reason or limit to be a final settlement. So from my vast store of ignorance, here goes nothing.

    What are the damages and liabilities? If a person (X) could prove he is descended from a slave, and could prove that there was an person or trust (Y) with an unbroken chain of gifted or inherited wealth from the slaveholder (Z) – (not broken by bankruptcy or wealth lost and regained) so that there was a good case that some portion the wealth Y possesses came from Z, then maybe Y should compensate X out of that portion.

    Example with made-up numbers:

    Suppose Z had 1000 slaves. Based on statistics you might calculate the number of descendants they have, let’s say (made-up numbers) 4 children and two parents per generation, six generations, that’s 2^6*1000 = 64,000 distinct lines of descent. Had that former slave been compensated by Z, X might have received an inheritance from that compensation. Likely none at all in many cases, but also much more in some others, but we don’t know, so average it. (But Y may be descended by more than one line).

    Suppose Y has $32 billion (to make the numbers easy), of which 0.1% is traceable to Z. If X can prove descent by two separate lines, he gets $1,000, for the two notional inheritances he has lost.

    That doesn’t seem like much for such a great crime, and it isn’t. But the thing about crimes is that they are destructive: The harm caused is usually far greater than the profit to the perpetrator. So there is never going to be enough profit for proper compensation. (One reason we don’t like crime.)

    Of course this is a ridiculous scheme (for one, Y’s influence is too great for it to ever happen), but I think it does at least bear some attenuated resemblance to some sort of equitable claim (unjust enrichment?). It has a stopping point.

    But outside of that it is hard to see how this could be done in any way which didn’t make anyone pay for a crime which they had no part in, and no benefit from.

    [1] For pedants: Most claims, in most jurisdictions.
    [2] Rhetorical question, I know you take paypal… I beg to be excused under TT rules.

  11. Scarlet Pimpernel

    I’m wondering what people would consider to be not only life changing but generationally life changing money and further what percentage of people who suddenly received large amounts of life changing money have seen their circumstances turn around permanently vs those who pissed it away.

  12. KP

    Well, I don’t know what the fuss is about! You’ve had a black President and that ends all underprivileged arguments! If he can make it, so can anyone in the USA. Those whining about not being privileged enough just have to try harder.

    If you want to see where this stupidity goes, read about NZ… The Maoris have claimed and reclaimed, and after “full and final settlements”, reclaimed again. Billions have been paid out, but they have only got as far as the ‘tribal leaders’ and corporations, the average Maori is still in the same place he was.

    The latest is claiming all the coast and seabed, which has multiple tribal claims so they have to prove continuous use and exclusive rights, but that is a white man’s construct now. This comes after claiming the airwaves and TV rights a few years ago.

    Don’t even entertain the thought!

  13. Rudytbone

    I lost family in the Civil War that freed the slaves. Do I get reparations? Should she pay me because my ancestors freed hers?

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