Thursday, September 7, 2006

Reparations Pro and Con

Reparationsproandcon_1 Been at APSA and finishing up some stuff on monument law, aloha jurisprudence, and the latest on rankings (of secondary journals) and on the implications of bar pass rates for ranking of law schools.  So I've been quiet.  I'll be talking more about some of that stuff shortly.

Because Reparations Pro and Con is now available I thought I'd post a little about it.  As I said back in June when I finished up reading the page proofs,  it's a book I struggled with for a number of years and the more I think about reparations, the more complex they seem to become. Reparations talk involves lots of issues central to American history and to law.  It reminds me of the statement of Joe Strummer, formerly of The Clash, which was widely publicized at the time of his death in December 2002, that "If you ain't thinkin' about [hu]man[s] and God and law, then you ain't thinkin' about nothin'."  Reparations talk combines all three of those and a lot more.

My favorite parts of Reparations Pro and Con are the beginning and the end--because the beginning sets up many of the issues at stake in reparations talk and the end pulls the strings together and tries to guess where this is all going.  It's about the gap between white and black wealth and about how we view American history: as a place of opportunity or oppression?  And how we think about opportunities today, as well.  There's a lot of other stuff in between--like what role, if any, the government should play in correcting for past injustices and whether it is fair to ask those who did not commit racial crimes to help correct the vestiges of them now. For propertyprofs, there are some great meta-issues, like the judiciary's role in taking land away from Native Americans

I think the reparations movement is moving in the direction of talking about the past, rather then asking for any kind of payments. So I'm predicting we're going to see more in the way of truth commissions, like the 1898 Wilmington Riot Commission and the Tulsa Riot Commission.  Some of this may happen through the work of individual historians (like Reconstructing the Dreamland).  And I think we're going to see more in the way of businesses and colleges investigating their past (like Brown University's Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice and the discussion at the University of Virginia about slavery on its campus).

Of course, there's a lot more in the book, including a chapter on the case against reparations and a little bit on cemeteries (and here) and monuments.  I hope you'll take a look at it and recommend it to your local library.  Here some more on the book at Oxford's website.

Alfred L. Brophy
Comments are held for approval, so they will not appear immediately.

Books | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Reparations Pro and Con:

» Brown University's Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice Report from PropertyProf Blog
This afternoon, Brown University's Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice released its final report. The report is available here. We're been following the story at Brown for a while. I'll have a few more thoughts after I read the lengthy [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 18, 2006 4:10:31 PM


I am one reader much looking forward to Professor Brophy's new book. I have to confess I didn't put much stock in reparations for a long time, until I learned more about the diversity of conceptions out there and the real remedial creativity that was emerging. Now it seems more natural to be talking about these things -- even if you're a Brown University and not just an Alabama or Ole Miss -- in large part because of people like Al. In my own work, I've been fascinated by how many law professors and lawyers now talk about the scale of complicity in animal cruelty by using analogies to slavery and its scope. If it is true that one's seeing morally reprehensible rules of property for what they are is inversely related to his or her pecuniary interests in not doing so, I think there may be a lot more cross-fertilization work still to be done in this connection. Thanks to Al for all his work on the book!

Posted by: Jamison Colburn | Sep 8, 2006 10:16:29 AM

Post a comment