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How can it be that, in 2019, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates was forced to give testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee that sounded like it could have been given in front of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction in 1866? How is it that, more than a century and a half after the end of the Civil War, a black man had to instruct members of the United States Congress on the rudiments of slavery and its legacies?
How can it be that, rather than participating in a national reckoning like those provided by South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or Germany's many post-war acts of national self-reflection and atonement, America is barely humoring the idea of paying reparations to the descendants of former slaves?
Most importantly, why oh why are powerful white men still pretending to listen instead of saying what needs to be said? When will a white man sit where Coates sat yesterday and address black people in the manner he spoke to those white representatives, and by extension white America: without the buffer of mediating, academic language, bluntly, poetically, vividly, humanely and unforgivingly, eye-to-eye, person-to-person, unafraid of the truth?