American Racial Jusice on Trial – Again: African American Reparations, Human Rights, and the War on Terror

Much has been written recently on African American reparations and reparations movements worldwide, both in the popular press and scholarly publications. Indeed, the expanding volume of writing underscores the impact on the public psyche of movements for reparations for historic injustice. Some of that writing has highlighted the legal obstacles faced by proponents of reparations lawsuits, particularly a judicial system that focuses on individual (and not group-based) claims and tends to squeeze even major social controversies into the narrow litigative paradigm of a two-person auto collision (requiring proof of standing, duty, breach, causation, and direct injury). Other writings detail the new research uncovering business and public institutional profiteering on the slave economy – banks, railroads, insurers, and universities. Still other studies document African American social conditions and the persistence of subtle yet invidious discrimination against people of color and especially African Americans. Our Essay does not retrace this terrain. Nor does it offer an in-depth study of reparations dynamics in specific cases. Rather the Essay examines the ongoing and impending African American reparations suits and frames in larger terms what may well be at stake in this forthcoming epochal trial of American Racial Justice. In particular, the Essay draws linkages among African American redress claims, the United States’ approach to international human rights and America’s moral authority to fight its preemptive “war on Terror.” Drawing upon and extending Professor Derrick Bell’s interest-convergence thesis8 and Professor Mary Dudziak’s ensuing research9 into the international underpinnings of Brown v. Board of Education,10 the Essay offers insights into what the future might be, here and in the eyes of worldwide communities, depending on what choices we in America make. about African American justice claims and human rights.