In wake of Baltimore unrest, Ta-Nehisi Coates complains about Jim Crow and lack of reparations

The inaugural JHU Forum on Race in America featuring acclaimed writer and Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates was planned months ago, organizers said, to launch a conversation at Johns Hopkins University about race and racism in our community and in our country.

Just days before the event, Baltimore erupted into riots following the funeral of Freddie Gray, the unrest beginning in the same neighborhood where Coates grew up. His mother, Coates wrote in The Atlantic earlier this week, was raised in the same West Baltimore housing project in which Gray was taken into police custody…

…The focus for Coates, one of the country’s leading public intellectuals on the topic of race, was not the broken mechanisms of the present. Rather, he repeatedly steered the conversation back to the past.

Coates declined to engage deeply in debates about the modern-day war on drugs, police corruption, or why race relations are so strained in Baltimore despite its majority-black leadership. Instead he encouraged attendees to look holistically at the centuries of “plunder” that have shaped America, from the days of slavery through the Jim Crow era and the discriminatory federal housing policies of this century.

“Plunder is not incidental to who we are. Plunder is not incidental to what America is,” Coates said, adding later: “You’re living in a country that could not exist without oceans of white supremacy.”

It would be a mistake, the writer cautioned, to “begin the conversation with the quote-unquote riot”…