Monday, May 9, 2016
In his latest commentary, Professor Carlton Waterhouse traces the debates on reparations to slaves back to 1865. Like in other countries, rejection of reparations as redress in the U.S. corresponds to the low social status of the victims. That is, "[g]roups enjoying the benefits of social dominance often reject claims by subordinate groups, even when they are rooted in horrible and well-established historic injustices." In the case of African Americans, Professor Waterhouse notes that their reality at the bottom of America's racial and social hierarchy is explained in popular media as a result of their inferiority rather than historic discrimination and racism over centuries. And thus many white Americans believe reparations are undeserved.
In his law review article Total Recall: Restoring the Public Memory of Enslaved African-Americans and the American System of Slavery Through Rectificatory Justice and Reparations, Professor Waterhouse distinguishes between the harms imposed by slavery and those imposed by the Jim Crow era to argue for different types of reparations. Specifically, he argues for compensatory reparations for the harms caused by the Jim Crow era. For slavery, he suggests "reparations take the form of monuments, museums, memorials and educational programs that are currently lacking in this country. One early step would be the creation of commissions at the state and local level that would identify the enslaved, their owners, and any role they played in the development of the state and its industries. This information would be used along with existing research and funded grants to develop appropriate projects to honor the enslaved and to demarcate the contributions they made."
Professor Waterhouse's full commentary at The Conversation is available here.