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Atonement and Forgiveness: A New Model for Black Reparations

Roy L. Brooks
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 342
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnsbv
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  • Book Info
    Atonement and Forgiveness
    Book Description:

    Roy L. Brooks reframes one of the most important, controversial, and misunderstood issues of our time in this far-reaching reassessment of the growing debate on black reparation.Atonement and Forgivenessshifts the focus of the issue from the backward-looking question of compensation for victims to a more forward-looking racial reconciliation. Offering a comprehensive discussion of the history of the black redress movement, this book puts forward a powerful new plan for repairing the damaged relationship between the federal government and black Americans in the aftermath of 240 years of slavery and another 100 years of government-sanctioned racial segregation. Key to Brooks's vision is the government's clear signal that it understands the magnitude of the atrocity it committed against an innocent people, that it takes full responsibility, and that it publicly requests forgiveness-in other words, that it apologizes. The government must make that apology believable, Brooks explains, by a tangible act that turns the rhetoric of apology into a meaningful, material reality, that is, by reparation. Apology and reparation together constitute atonement. Atonement, in turn, imposes a reciprocal civic obligation on black Americans to forgive, which allows black Americans to start relinquishing racial resentment and to begin trusting the government's commitment to racial equality. Brooks's bold proposal situates the argument for reparations within a larger, international framework-namely, a post-Holocaust vision of government responsibility for genocide, slavery, apartheid, and similar acts of injustice.Atonement and Forgivenessmakes a passionate, convincing case that only with this spirit of heightened morality, identity, egalitarianism, and restorative justice can genuine racial reconciliation take place in America.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93973-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Chapter 1 THE PURPOSE AND HISTORY OF THE BLACK REDRESS MOVEMENT
    (pp. 1-19)

    The orchestrated aspiration to obtain slave redress—redress for slavery and Jim Crow collectively—is referred to here as the “black redress movement.” Although this orchestration has yet to soar to the symphonic heights of the civil rights movement, and although gigantic conductors of the stature of Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall have yet to emerge (but are on the way), it would be wrong to dismiss the black redress movement as a ragtag collection of racial malcontents marching to the beat of their own drum. The movement is growing in strength and acceptance as it becomes better understood....

  5. Chapter 2 HARMS TO SLAVES AND FREE BLACKS
    (pp. 20-35)

    Although the use of human beings as domesticated animals reaches back to ancient Mesopotamia,¹ the Atlantic slave trade was not slavery as usual. Initiated by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century, the Atlantic slave trade was a new form of slavery—far more diabolical than that which existed since ancient times, and far more appalling than the intertribal slavery that existed in Africa prior to the European influence. Slavery in the Americas introduced the troubling element of race into the master/slave relationship. For the first time in history, dark skin became the social marker of chattel slavery. And, as a...

  6. Chapter 3 HARMS TO DESCENDANTS
    (pp. 36-97)

    Two persons—one white, the other black—are playing a game of poker. The game has been in progress for almost four hundred years. One player— the white one—has been cheating during much of this time, but now announces: “From this day forward, there will be a new game with new players and no more cheating.” Hopeful but somewhat suspicious, the black player responds, “That’s great. I’ve been waiting to hear you say that for four hundred years. Let me ask you, what are you going to do with all those poker chips that you have stacked up on...

  7. Chapter 4 THE TORT MODEL
    (pp. 98-140)

    Whether white or black, opponents as well as proponents of the black redress movement typically conceptualize the question of slave redress through what can be called the “tort model.”¹ Although it can appear in legislative form,² the tort model is primarily a litigation approach to slave redress. It operates upon a certain set of premises—compensation and, for some proponents, punishment or even white guilt.³ Many proponents of the tort model would be satisfied if the government or a private beneficiary of slavery were simply to write a check for X amount of dollars to every slave descendant. In response,...

  8. Chapter 5 THE ATONEMENT MODEL
    (pp. 141-179)

    Racial reconciliation should be the primary purpose of slave redress. It is what gives the idea of slave redress its forward-looking quality.¹ When Americans embrace the idea of slave redress, they welcome the belief that we must go back in time and place to right a heavy wrong and to make the present and future more racially harmonious. They understand that there is a price to pay for collective amnesia, for that type of erasure.

    Some might say that racial reconciliation is unnecessary or that the past should remain buried. These good people miss many points. They miss the point...

  9. Chapter 6 OPPOSING ARGUMENTS
    (pp. 180-206)

    In this final chapter, I shall address many of the most significant arguments advanced in opposition to slave redress. Some of my answers have already been stated. They are contained in the previous chapters of the book and, thus, require little more than a brief explanation and cross-reference. New responses are discussed more extensively.¹

    1. The whole notion of atonement seems opportunistic and morally arbitrary, because African tribes played a major role in the enslavement of blacks, and no one is asking them to apologize.

    There is no moral equivalency here. As one commentator has noted, “it wasn’t the [African]...

  10. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 207-212)

    With these words, spoken at the site of the infamous Goree Island in Dakar, Senegal, which served as a point of departure for the millions of Africans sent through the middle passage to America, President Bush came closer than any other American president to tendering an apology for slavery. We are, indeed, moving closer to the day when such an apology and reparations will become a reality. I would hope that President Bush would be the first president to initiate the atonement process. Not only does he have political pedigree as head of the party of Lincoln to move in...

  11. Appendix 1: SELECTED LIST OF OTHER ATROCITIES
    (pp. 213-217)
  12. Appendix 2: SUMMARY OF THE NEGOTIATIONS THAT LED TO GERMANY’S FOUNDATION LAW
    (pp. 218-220)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 221-272)
  14. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 273-298)
  15. CASES
    (pp. 299-302)
  16. STATUTES
    (pp. 303-306)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 307-325)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 326-326)