[N.B.: credit @ninjaamajo for the inspo for the article’s title]
Since we now have a writer who is positioning herself (or perhaps more precisely, who is being positioned) to lead a national discussion about reparations, it seems worth looking into how that person has historically framed that issue and how she has previously used her platform to help inform her fellow Americans about it. After all, this particular individual claims to have been reading about and researching the topic of reparations for the past twenty years, so one may reasonably assume there’d be a long trail of intellectual breadcrumbs that she has left along the way.
Twitter proves quite useful in this respect; that is, for collecting information about a person’s involvement in/contributions to a particular discourse over the years. So here, in chronological order, is the history of Nikole Hannah-Jones (a self-professed disciple of reparations studies) talking about that issue on Twitter.
NHJ joined Twitter in March of 2009. The very first mention of reparations from her occurs six years later, in 2015, a full fifteen years into her apparent research on the subject.
Like much of what follows, NHJ’s earliest engagement with reparations on Twitter is largely just a reference/paean to the Coates article on reparations that ran in The Atlantic the previous year. The last tweet simply shares an article by Zach Stafford in The Nation. She then doesn’t mention reparations again for four months, but, when she finally does, it’s (not surprisingly) to shout out the Coates Article.
A full year passes until reparations resurfaces on NHJ’s timeline. And while it no doubt constitutes the most original intellectual engagement with the topic we’ve seen thus far, there’s a pretty weird suggestion that reparations for the government-sanctioned, centuries-long horror of targeted exclusion of ADOS is…financial aid?
Anyway. Another month goes by and she mentions reparations again because of something that someone said to Coates when he was still on Twitter. She then abstains from any further remarks on the topic until February of the following year when she tweets about reparations twice in one day (an all-time high!) and then tells someone to not talk to her about it anymore (a curt dismissal which—as we are all now very familiar with—is signature NHJ).
Silence then ensues on reparations for eight full months. She (again) disdainfully scoffs at someone and tells them to go read a book (as, of course, any respectable public intellectual should naturally do when confronted with an opinion that is at variance with their own). She then shouts out Coates. Again.
Four months elapse, and NHJ reprises her previous year’s tweet about reparations being part of the Republican platform during the late 19th century. The next day she clarifies a point about reparations, and then shelves the issue for another three months, at which point she shouts out the Coates article (which I’m honestly beginning to think she may actually have constructed a shrine to in her house).
June of 2018 constituted the most pronounced level of discussion about reparations, with a total of three (3) tweets. Though it seems this blitzkrieg may have in fact resulted in some serious reparations fatigue for NHJ, because it’s then another three months of reparations-free tweeting.
Picking up the baton again in October, NHJ then rounds out 2018 by tweeting about reparations twice in three months.
What’s also interesting about 12/3/18 is that is the same day when NHJ announces to all of her followers that she’s going to be (re)focusing her attention on a book that she’d been working on about the re-segregation of U.S. public schools.
And it did indeed seem that way. At least for a little while.
Nearly three months pass without any mention of reparations. Not uncommon. Curiously, when she does start talking about reparations again, it is at the exact moment that the #ADOS movement is beginning to attract significant attention from national media. With the #ADOS-led critique of then-Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris gaining traction (a critique that effectively halted her campaign’s momentum with black voters and triggered a much larger discussion about who carries the true cost of being black in America) Joy Reid, Shireen Mitchell, Angela Rye and a host of others all began peddling a demonstrably false accusation that the grassroots movement was a “Russian bot” operation. The Intercept then ran an article about #ADOS, highlighting how the “Russian Bot” dysinfo campaign started by Reid et al conformed with a pattern of behavior by the establishment Left media to neutralize and delegitimize any dissent against the Party’s preferred candidates. NHJ then weighed in on the matter of Harris, distorting the #ADOS critique of her and thus prompting responses from Yvette Carnell, Antonio Moore and the rest of the #ADOS movement. NHJ claims this was the very first time Yvette and Antonio entered into her sphere. Up until this point, she maintains, she never heard of either of them.
But see it’s odd. Because the frequency with which NHJ from this point forward then begins to talk about reparations is so much noticeably greater than it had been for the previous four years. More importantly, the kind of language she begins to deploy in these conversations bears an unmistakable resemblance to the specific framing that the #ADOS movement has developed and refined since 2016.
From about this point on on her timeline, I don’t think a month goes by where NHJ doesn’t post multiple tweets about reparations. And the thing that seems essential to consider as she now persists in repudiating the #ADOS movement when they question her motivation for suddenly stepping into this space without acknowledging the significance of their advocacy, is the specific convergence of the energy around reparations that the movement itself inspired and NHJ’s sudden ‘commitment’ to the issue. Was it simply the right time to get on her grind about economic justice after what we are told was decades of research? Or—one has to wonder—was it simply time to get on her grift when she saw an opportunity to begin siphoning off some energy from #ADOS in late Feb? I think the tweets above provide some insight into that question, and I think they ultimately cast serious doubt on the integrity of NHJ, journalistic or otherwise.