Videchak on reparations and justicePosted: May 4, 2012
Videchak discusses a major problem she sees with the idea of black reparations, beyond the often cited epistemic, legal, practical issues of instituting reparations to present-day descendants of North American slaves: such reparations address past injustice to the epistemic detriment of continuing present day injustice. “When we argue that descendants of black slaves ought to be compensated for injustices to their predecessors, we automatically assume two things. The first is that those descendants themselves are not being treated unjustly; we are not compensating them for current injustices, but past injustices. This assumes that present injustices are not occurring nor are they important. But even if one admits that injustices towards blacks still exist, this leads into the second assumption. We are then blindly admitting that the descendants of black slaves do not themselves deserve compensation for the presently occurring and continual injustices that they are experiencing; rather, they may only deserve reparation for injustices towards their ancestors.”
Videchak’s paper connects in interesting ways to the two previous papers on narrative accounts of personal identity, for she argues that what is integral to understanding and addressing contemporary racialized injustice stems from the loss of identity experienced by blacks due to slavery. Videchak proposes that more public emphasis on black history in Canada is an important present day remedy.
Byron Williston: I like this approach, it bypasses the problem Parfit discusses –how do we identify future persons who would be harmed by some particular course of action, if it is the case that the specified individuals would not exist but for this course of action? In your account there is a causal story of past injustice connecting to the present, but making out the basis of harm doesn’t depend on a metaphysically problematic identification of individuals harmed.
Rusin: As an American transplanted to Canada, it occurs to me that your proposed solution has a natural ally in the fact that Canadians grow up imbued with the importance of Remembrance Day. You have a national holiday with school assemblies articulating the argument that memory is ethically imperative, that acknowledgement is ethically required–the subject, of course, is different, but your argument’s practical upshot has an ally in the already extant pageantry of Remembrance Day. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the historical coverup of the Tulsa race riots, and the 2001 (!) commission’s conclusions–certainly your paper underlines why reclamation of the history is important, are the financial reparations like scholarships relatively unimportant? Are there Canadian equivalents?