Rawls and Reparations

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Vol: 15, Issue: 2, Page: 267-316

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Carcieri, Martin D.
Obama (Barack); Sotomayor (Sonia); Presidents; United States Supreme Court; Race and law; Ricci v. DeStefano; Gates (Henry); Justice; Rawls (John); Reparations; Slavery; Descendants; Courts; Human Rights Law; Law and Philosophy; Law and Race; Legislation
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In the past two years, four related events have sharpened debates on race in the U.S.: President Obama's election, the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, that Court's ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano, and the arrest of Obama's friend, Harvard professor Henry Gates. The President has spoken of a "teaching moment" arising from these events. Moreover, his writings, speeches and lawmaking efforts illustrate the contractual nature of Obama's thinking. The President (and all concerned citizens) should thus find useful an analysis of racial policy and justice in light of the work of John Rauls. Rawls may be the most influential political theorist of our time. Applying his theory to questions of race policy, this Article defends the following counterintuitive thesis: while strong forms of affirmative action cannot be derived from Rawls's theory, strong forms of legislative reparations can be so derived. This Article concludes with a concrete plan for raising the resources such reparations would require.