Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-21-2015

Publisher

Boston University School of Law

Language

en-US

Abstract

This paper develops the case for reparations to African Americans today, based on wrongdoing that began with slavery, that was not repaired by Reconstruction, that was continued in new forms under Jim Crow, and that left a deeply-entrenched legacy of disadvantage despite civil rights reforms of the twentieth century. It reviews relevant aspects of U.S. history and policies since 1607 and lays out the moral considerations that call for a system of reparations far beyond anything yet contemplated by American society. It argues that cash payments, while needed, would not suffice, because slavery and Jim Crow were not just a collection of wrongs, such as unpaid labor and poor housing, but all-encompassing systems that prevented African Americans from developing their interests, their intellects, and their lives as they were morally entitled to do. The subordination of African Americans was rationalized by a profoundly insulting ideology of white supremacy that has greatly affected American culture and contaminated the attitudes of whites and blacks. A morally adequate program of reparations would enable the survivors of those systems to rebuild their lives, free of oppressive racism, as far as that is possible. The paper finally notes some wider implications of the reparations argument.

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