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The Best Two-Minute Explanation of the Connection Between Neighborhood and Poverty We've Ever Heard

Tuesday, June 03, 2014 - 03:52 PM

A view of North Lawndale, the Chicago neighborhood profiled in Ta-Nehisi Coates's "The Case for Reparations" (ifmuth/flickr)

One of our favorite recent interviews (and one of the most listened to) was with The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates on his epic cover story "The Case for Reparations." The piece is about so much more than a possible cash accounting for the lingering effects of racism - it's a tour through centuries of what Coates calls the "systematic taking" from African-Americans. In one stretch, Coates laid out why it's so important to understand the deep connection between neighborhood, housing policy, and individual wealth. It's such a compelling and clear-eyed explanation, we thought we'd highlight it here on the blog.

Here's a partial transcript:

Anyone who knows anything about social capital and how networks work in this country...even if you yourself prove to be a successful individual of high income, that says nothing about the people you're connected to. To make this really really explicit: I may go to college, get a great degree, and get a really nice Wall Street job...but because I'm black, because I'm from a plundered community, it's much more likely that I will have to, for instance, take care of my mother, take care of my father...it's much more likely that my younger brother or sister...may not have followed...I have a cousin that I have to deal with.

When you begin to understand and begin to look at black people as part of broader communities, and white people as part of broader communities, many of the things that appear mysterious to us are not mysterious at all.

Take a listen to the full two-minutes above, and the full segment here. Also listen for a call at 25:30 in that interview from a woman who reflects much of what Coates says above in her personal experience.

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