“The Case for Reparations,” Ta-Nehisi Coates’ brief in the Atlantic for why African Americans are owed a debt for the racial penalties paid for since slavery, “has brought more visitors to the Atlantic [website] in a single day than any single piece we’ve ever published,” Atlantic editor James Bennet told a crowd of more than 800 people on Thursday.
As for the print edition, “It’s still early, but at this point we’ve sold nearly twice as many copies of the June issue, as we did this same time last year,” spokeswoman Anna Bross told Journal-isms this week. She added, “Since it’s so early, still, this sales data is just for bookstores, not the full national newsstand distribution.”
The reaction from African Americans has been “really, really joyous,” Coates told a sold-out audience at Washington’s Sixth and I Historic Synagogue.
“The white perspective is more interesting,” Coates continued. “I get from white people, ‘I had no idea!’ “After all, Coates said, “Who talks about redlining? There’s a kind of belief, ‘Now I understand, OK, this makes sense.’ “
Writing Friday for the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg saw something larger:
“At the Sixth and I synagogue in Washington on Thursday night, people were reselling tickets out on the street as if a playoff game was taking place inside, rather than a talk by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a national correspondent for the Atlantic,” Rosenberg began. “The subject of the event was Coates’s recent cover story for the magazine, ‘The Case for Reparations,’ which has broken traffic records and vanished from newsstands.
“While the piece is popular, the turnout for Coates and the reception he received in the sanctuary reflected something larger than the enthusiasm for a single article. ‘The Case for Reparations’ managed to revive and reframe a major policy debate about race in the United States. But the piece is part of a larger project, a redefinition of what counts as a legitimate conversation about race in the United States and an attempt to define what intellectual credentials are required to enter that debate. . . .”
Coates’ achievement also planted a flag for black journalists. Interviewed for more than an hour by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the national correspondent took his audience through a rhetoric-free conversation about ideas that was backed up by reporting.
Coates said, “It’s very, very important … it’s really, really important that, you know, if we’re going to have this fight, that folks educate themselves on the history. You can oppose reparations all you want, but you got to know the facts. You really, really do.