Brooks announced his newfound support for reparations in his Thursday op-ed, and credited journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’ convincing 2014 essay in The Atlantic, “The Case For Reparations.” In a nod to Coates’ work, Brooks gave his column the same headline.
Reparations have resurfaced in the political discourse as some Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and former Obama administration official Julian Castro have offered statements supporting the idea. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has denounced racial inequality, but hasn’t said he’ll support reparations for descendants of black slaves in the U.S.
Brooks wrote that he initially found “all sorts of practical objections” to Coates’ argument in favor of reparations, such as how to address “poor whites who have nothing of what you would call privilege” and whether payments would be made to wealthy celebrities like Oprah Winfrey or LeBron James.
But he said the past few years traveling across the county studying socioeconomic and political divides prompted him to reconsider. His experiences, he said, “suggest we are at another moment of make-or-break racial reckoning.”
Brooks said the key part of Coates’ essay was his definition of reparations as not simply financial compensation, but something deeper:
And so we must imagine a new country. Reparations — by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences — is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. ... What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices — more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.
Brooks acknowledged that “reparations are a drastic policy and hard to execute,” but he argued that “the very act of talking about and designing them heals a wound and opens a new story.”
He wrote on Twitter that he “never could have imagined” changing his opinion.
Many of his readers apparently couldn’t have imagined it, either: