Analytical Essay on Ta-Nehisi Coates' 'The Case for Reparations'

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In the essay 'The Case for Reparations', the author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, analyzes African-American history in order to further his argument that African Americans deserve some form of reparations. He argues that America has allowed for the 'plunder' of African Americans in the past and continues to do so in the present. To back his claims, Coates uses stories and evidence to connect how America’s well-being is due to its history of racism, slavery, and oppression. In doing so, his language is more engaging than off-putting, making his argument very convincing.

To strengthen his claim, Coates uses stories and evidence from America’s history to engage the reader’s emotions. He first does this in the beginning with Clyde Ross’s story. Coates begins his essay by describing Ross as a person with humble beginnings. The Ross family owned and farmed a 40-acre tract of land with cows, hogs, and mules, and Clyde was given one of their horses which had a red coat. Coates describes the family as one that wanted nothing except the protection of the law. However, this protection of the law wasn’t provided for them. Mississippi authorities accused the family of having back taxes, while the Ross family had no effective way to respond. The state seized their assets and forced them to turn to sharecropping. Being sharecroppers, the Ross family gained little with their wages being “treated as the landlord’s slush fund” (Coates, 575). It was this kind of injustice that shaped Ross as he grew up. After returning from serving in the war, Ross faced more injustice and discrimination. He and his wife bought a home in a community in North Lawndale, which was a predominantly Jewish neighborhood at the time. It seemed promising, but soon the Ross family found out that to be untrue. The boiler burst, which normally would be a straightforward issue for a homeowner. Only Ross was not a homeowner, having bought the home 'on contract', a predatory scheme where sellers would buy houses, sell them to people far over their worth, but keep the deed until the contract is paid in full rather than turning the deed over to the 'homeowner' and being paid by the bank who is then paid by the homeowner. Not only did Ross not own the house, but he could not acquire equity and would have to forfeit the house, down payment, and monthly payments if he missed a single payment. Coates uses Clyde Ross’s life story to engage the reader’s emotions rather than use a generalized story of injustice against African Americans. By using a more personal story, especially at the beginning of his essay, Coates builds a connection with the reader to show the injustice Ross had lived through. This emotional connection that Coates creates allows him to catch the reader's attention and easily persuade them throughout the rest of his story.

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Another piece of evidence Coates uses to engage the reader to further persuasion is the unfair laws America created to put down African Americans. The practice of a homeowner being 'on contact' targeted black families specifically, and financing an actual mortgage was near impossible for African-American families at the time. The government also furthered housing inaccessibility for the black community, particularly through the creation of the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA insured private mortgages based on a grading scale, one which rated neighborhoods with black people, regardless of social class or percentage, as a 'D', making them ineligible for FHA support in a process referred to as redlining. It was unfair laws such as this that led Ross and the Contract Buyers League to no longer appeal to the government simply for equality. Ross and the Contract Buyers League were now demanding to charge society with a 'crime against their community' and “they wanted the crime’s executors declared to be offensive to society” (Coates, 579). Coates brings these points up near the end of Ross’s story to provide the facts while still connecting to the reader's emotions.

While Coates brings up the idea of reparations many times, this idea is not new. The opposition to reparations see that it is the African Americans’ fault that such a situation has occurred to them. However, Coates would respond with the fact that America purposefully exploited black families to become prosperous. America’s history is connected to the oppression of African Americans, racism, and slavery. In the past, it was one of America’s greatest assets and helped its economy greatly. Coates’s opposition may then bring up the point that all of this had happened in the past. However, Coates would then respond to the case in 2005 when Wells Fargo promoted a series of Wealth Building Strategies seminars. These seminars were later found to be a front for wealth theft. Wells Fargo also had a discrimination lawsuit given to it when it allegedly “shunted blacks into predatory loans regardless of their creditworthiness” (Coates, 596). The following year, Wells Fargo settled its discrimination suit for more than $175 million, but it was too late. Half the properties in Baltimore whose owners had been granted loans by Wells Fargo between 2005 and 2008 were vacant; 71 percent of these properties were in predominantly black neighborhoods. Coates provides these pieces of evidence in his essay to rebut any opposition.

All in all, Coates poses the demand for reparations as a means for blacks to finally have justice served against the crooked system that existed in America. In his argument, he tries to justify reparations by providing stories and evidence of the continuous discrimination of African Americans after slavery was abolished. There are several ways that Coates uses his argument that racial discrimination toward African Americans makes them inferior to white supremacists. He does this by using the life of Clyde Ross to illustrate racial discrimination on a personal level.

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Analytical Essay on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘The Case for Reparations’. (2024, February 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-ta-nehisi-coates-the-case-for-reparations/
“Analytical Essay on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘The Case for Reparations’.” Edubirdie, 28 Feb. 2024, edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-ta-nehisi-coates-the-case-for-reparations/
Analytical Essay on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘The Case for Reparations’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-ta-nehisi-coates-the-case-for-reparations/> [Accessed 30 May 2024].
Analytical Essay on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘The Case for Reparations’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2024 Feb 28 [cited 2024 May 30]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-ta-nehisi-coates-the-case-for-reparations/
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