At the first House hearing on reparations in 12 years, author Ta-Nehisi Coates sharply criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for claiming on Tuesday that "no one currently alive was responsible" for slavery, and that the country has tried to make amends through civil rights legislation and electing a black president.
Catch up quick: Also on Tuesday, Joe Biden received harsh criticism for nostalgically recollecting the "civil" relationships he had with segregationist senators in the 1970s and '80s. Coates condemned the 2020 candidate in an interview on Wednesday with Democracy Now, saying: "Joe Biden shouldn't be president ... The fact of the matter is Joe Biden owes his very presence in the race right now to the first black president Barack Obama."
The latest: On Thursday evening, in an MSNBC interview with Chris Hayes, Coates said: "...the problem here is not that [Biden] had polite relationships with people who had deeply, deeply deplorable views. The problem is those very polite relationships were premised on the fact that those people's deeply deplorable views actually disenfranchised an entire sector of the electorate. "
"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. It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement, but the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy, respects no such borders and the guard of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs. Coup d-états and convict leasing. Vagrancy laws and debt peonage. Redlining and racist G.I. bills. Poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism. 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. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they’d love a word with the majority leader."
The big picture: The historic hearing is being held to discuss new legislation to study reparations for descendants of slaves, an issue that has made its way to the forefront of Democratic discourse. The bill would create a commission that would issue recommendations to educate the American public about the lingering effects of slavery on African-Americans and ultimately get the country on "the path to restorative justice." It is being held on Juneteenth, a holiday recognizing the liberation of black slaves.
Go deeper: Read Coates' full testimony