Ta-Nehisi Coates goes after McConnell on reparations

Writer and activist Ta-Nehisi Coates went after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE during a Wednesday House hearing on reparations for slavery after the Kentucky Republican dismissed the idea the day before.

Coates, speaking at the first House hearing on reparations in more than a decade, took issue with McConnell's characterization that American slavery was "something that happened 150 years ago."

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"We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox," Coates said, referring to the battle that effectively ended the Civil War. "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 in a regime premised on electoral theft."

"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," continued Coates, who famously laid out "The Case for Reparations" in The Atlantic in 2014. "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."

"While emancipation dead-bolted the door against the bandits of America, Jim Crow wedged the windows right open," he added. "It was 150 years ago and it is right now."

Coates said that measures of wealth, maternal mortality and incarceration all show discrimination against black Americans is far from over. 

"There is of course the shame of this land of the free boasting the largest prison population on the planet of which the descendants of the enslaved make up the largest share," he said. 

He said that reparations are a matter of "making amends and direct redress" as well as "a question of citizenship." 

McConnell said Tuesday that he does not support reparations when asked about the issue, which has been getting attention from 2020 Democratic White House hopefuls such as Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerPoll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (N.J.), who has introduced legislation to study the issue. 

"I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none us currently living are responsible is a good idea," McConnell said. "We've tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We elected an African American president."