Monday, April 14, 2008

Brophy, Reparations: Pro and Con

Reparations Pro and Con by Alfred L. Brophy, University of Alabama (moving to the University of North Carolina) was published by Oxford University Press (2006), and is noted on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Long before the phrase 40 acres and a mule was coined to describe what black Americans were owed for slavery, abolitionists discussed compensating slaves for what had been unjustly taken from them. Today, the debate over reparations for slavery and Jim Crow--whether African-Americans should be compensated for decades of racial subjugation--stands as the most racially divisive issue in American politics.
Discussion of reparations leads often to more animosity than serious consideration of the issue, with reparations advocates and skeptics taking extreme positions, rather than reaching for common ground. In a concise compass, Reparations Pro and Con considers the debate over reparations from the 1700s to the present, examining the arguments on both sides of the current debate. Brophy tells the story of the black reparations movement from Thaddeus Stevens, through the dark days of Jim Crow and then the Harlem Renaissance, to critical race theory, and relates it to other movements for racial justice. Most importantly, he puts the debate into context of the practice of reparations, such as for Jewish victims of the Holocaust, Native Americans, and for the detainment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The book also considers litigation and legislation past and present, examining failed and successful lawsuits, and reparations actions by legislatures, newspapers, schools, and businesses, including apologies and truth commissions. Reparations: Pro and Con concludes with a frank and sober look at the case for reparations and where, if anywhere, the movement is going. It suggests that the movement may lead to a renewed advocacy of social-welfare programs regardless of race.

And here are blurbs and a review:
"Amidst the often rancorous national debate over reparations for slavery, Alfred Brophy's Reparations: Pro and Con stands out as a work of rare balance and judiciousness. Rather than offering another partisan polemic, Brophy takes seriously the arguments of both advocates and opponents of reparations, illuminating the complex historical, political, legal, and moral questions entailed by any confrontation with historical injustice. Whatever your politics, you will profit from reading this book."--James T. Campbell, author of Middle Passages and Songs of Zion
"Professor Alfred Brophy has written a book about reparations and its contentious qualities that is a must-read for all. While reparations was a dormant subject in the twentieth century, Alfred Brophy has raised it to an exalted status: if you want to know the essence of the debate, this book is for you."--Charles K. Ogletree, Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor, Harvard Law School, and Executive Director of Harvard's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice
"In spite of our victory over master race theory in World War II, in spite of Brown vs. Board of Education and the heartwrenching victories of the civil rights struggle, Jim Crow lives on in fact if not in law. Brophy's book operates in the realm of fact. How would we act if repairing injustice were the true goal of our hearts? What world would we make? Answering the questions posed in this book is the way to peace, at last."--Mari Matsuda, co-author, with Charles Lawrence, of We Won't Go Back: Making the Case for Affirmative Action and Professor, Georgetown University Law Center
"A comprehensive yet very accessible book on a controversial outstanding source. Recommended."--CHOICE