Once again, the epic drama of slavery and freedom is upon us. No, I’m not referring to Ferguson, although others have written extensively on links there to the nation’s history of bondage, legal violence, and avoidance of justice. While others protest, this weekend millions of moviegoers will behold Exodus: Gods and Kings. “Let my people go” will square off against law and order. The fish will die; so will the first born males. The Red Sea will separate, for a time, and then its crashing waters will destroy an army.
Exodus has been with Americans since the nation’s birth.
If you haven't read Ta-Nehisi Coates's cover story in the current Atlantic, do. Coates surveys the history of white supremacy in America, with a particular focus on housing policy in one Chicago neighborhood, and calls us to do what we've never really done: seriously consider what it might take to make it right.
The headline is "The Case for Reparations," but Coates doesn't name a dollar amount or even argue that payment is the main goal.
"For almost 50 years, South Korean villagers have insisted that early in the Korean War, American soldiers machine-gunned hundreds of helpless civilians under a railroad bridge near a hamlet some 100 miles southeast of Seoul," read a front-page article in the New York Times.
When Washington Post writer Colbert King invited readers to respond to the idea of paying reparations to the descendants of African-American slaves, he got a mailbox full of opinions. “I’m all for reparations for blacks,” said one. “By the way, as a descendant of Anglo-Saxons, I’ve been deeply traumatized by what the Normans did to us in 1066. How about some for me too?”
In 1969, I dropped out of college, moved to Racine, Wisconsin, and worked for a community action program and then for a welfare rights organization. The focus of my work was tenants’ rights—helping tenants negotiate with landlords over things like rent and housing violations. Among my many indelible memories from that year was the situation of a family with six children.
The Roman Catholic Church will investigate a life-saving miracle attributed to the late Pope John Paul I, bringing the pontiff who served only 33 days in 1978 one step closer to possible sainthood. His papacy was one of the briefest in history, ended by an apparent heart attack.
Support the Christian Century
The Century's work relies primarily on subscriptions and donations. Thank you for supporting nonprofit journalism.