The question of reparations is far from new: aside from waves of ideological debate, reparations have actually been effectuated for certain groups in the U.S. context and beyond. Years ago, HLS’ own Martha Minow even devoted a chapter of her 1998 book Between Vengeance and Forgiveness to the topic of reparations. In June 2014, Ta Nehisi Coates’ Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations” reignited the contemporary conversation on reparations for African Americans. Due to its substantial acclaim, the intellectual reverberation of this article permeated discussions from coffee shops to campuses. This reverberation has extended into the present moment. In October 2016, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent released a report on its mission to the United States, stating: “The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism, and racial inequality in the US remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent.” Indeed, this moment seems particular auspicious for taking seriously the case for Reparatory Justice in America.
RJI aims to explore, in particular, what roles education, memorial, and truth & reconciliation can play in facilitating Reparatory Justice for various groups in the United States.