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Ta-Nehisi Coates Tears Into McConnell at Reparations Hearing: Victims of Racial Injustice Would ‘Love a Word’ With Him

At Wednesday’s House hearing on reparations, Democratic witness Ta-Nehisi Coates, author and columnist who wrote a widely-referenced article for The Atlantic that is often credited for the renewed discussion on reparations, called out Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell directly during opening remarks.

Ahead of the hearing, McConnell was asked about the topic of reparations on Tuesday and said, “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea.”

In his remarks, Coates singled McConnell out as his opening remark.

“Yesterday, when asked about reparations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a familiar reply: America should not be held liable for something that happened 150 years ago since none of us currently alive are responsible,” said Coates. “This rebuttal proffers a strange theory of governance, that American accounts are somehow bound by the lifetime of its generations.”

“But well into this century, the United States was still paying out pensions to the heirs of Civil War soldiers. We honor treaties that date back some 200 years, despite no one being alive who signed those treaties,” he said. “Many of us would love to be taxed for the things we are solely and individually responsible for. But we are American citizens, and thus bound to a collective enterprise that extends beyond our individual and personal reach.”

As he continued his remarks, he revisited McConnell several times.

“Enslavement reigned for 250 years on these shores. When it ended, this country could have extended its hallowed principles—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—to all, regardless of color. But America had other principles in mind,” he said. “And so for a century after the Civil War, black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror, a campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell.”

And again.

“We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox. But he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney. He was alive for the blinding of Isaac Woodard. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama and a regime premised on electoral theft. Majority Leader McConnell cited civil-rights legislation yesterday, as well he should, because he was alive to witness the harassment, jailing, and betrayal of those responsible for that legislation by a government sworn to protect them. He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion,” said Coates. “Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the majority leader.”

The full clip of his statement is above, courtesy of C-SPAN. The hearing produced several other newsworthy moments, including the booing of a Republican who called reparations “unconstitutional,” and the scolding of a witness who spoke in opposition to reparations, by both the citizens and witnesses in the chamber as well as subcommittee chair Rep. Steve Cohen.

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