Confronting Injustice: Moral History and Political Theory

David Lyons, Boston Univeristy School of Law


These essays challenge both theorists and citizens to confront grave injustices committed by their country. That calls on Americans to take a fresh look at their nation's beginnings, including the colonists' early adoption of race-based slavery even though it was unlawful and why those who rebelled against English oppression were responsible for greater injustices against their Native American neighbors. Confronting injustice requires Americans to consider how delegates to the 1787 constitutional convention readily embraced increased protections for chattel slavery, why the federal government later abandoned Reconstruction, and why the nation allowed former slave owners to establish a new system of racial oppression called Jim Crow. It requires Americans to ask why America's official rejection of white supremacy is combined with an unwillingness to address continuing racial stratification. Confronting injustice calls upon political theorists to test their views in the crucible of social history. It challenges those who debate abstractly the idea of an obligation to obey the law to consider the implications of grievous injustices. It calls upon those who assume that their society is now "reasonably just" to ask when that transformation occurred, despite the fact that children who are black or poor lack and are denied equal opportunity.