Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal


Reparations for historic wrongs, particularly those done to large groups of people on the basis of their racially constructed identity, is a topic of much current debate. Because the harm caused by such injustices can never really be repaired, the question becomes one of what kind of acknowledgement and direct compensation to victims is appropriate and, more fundamentally, whether the institutional structures that perpetuate such wrongs have been changed to ensure that the injuries are not perpetuated or repeated. Applying some lessons learned from redress to Japanese Americans interned during World War I, this essay suggests that movements for reparations can be a two-edged sword. While they have the potential for exposing and changing the systematic ways in which such injustices are perpetrated, they can also serve to reinforce the very structures that created the harm. To avoid that danger, the author argues that we must search for the root causes of the injustice and insist on remedies that incorporate fundamental structural change.

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