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"Symposium: The Reparations Question Part One"

A discussion of proposals for reparations to the black community for the injustices of slavery, and an alternative proposal.July/August 1994 issue of Poverty & Race

View Part Two of this Symposium

View Part Three of this Symposium

How to make white America comprehend and come to grips with the legacy of slavery? Is this a necessary precondition to dealing with, and perhaps ending, current institutionalized racism, segregated housing, school and employment patterns, and the prejudiced attitudes and behavior of individuals?

A deeply felt strand of thought and strategic thinking in at least a portion of the black community, and among some whites as well, holds that a program of systemic and large-scale reparations is an essential threshold step, for which precedents certainly exist in recent US and world history. On the other hand, the philosophical, political and practical problems of remedying past wrongs on the scale attributable to slavery, an institution that was formally and legally ended well over a century ago, are immense.

We decided to raise the reparations issue and its problems in the form of an interview with one of its leading proponents, economist Richard America. Accompanying our interview is a supportive commentary by Rep. John Conyers of Detroit, sponsor of a bill to study the legacy of slavery and propose remedies; and a strong but friendly dissent, with an alternative proposal, by Temple University sociologist Howard Winant.
-- Chester Hartman


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