Atonement and Forgiveness: A New Model for Black Reparations

Atonement and Forgiveness: A New Model for Black Reparations

Atonement and Forgiveness: A New Model for Black Reparations

Atonement and Forgiveness: A New Model for Black Reparations


"Roy Brooks' atonement model makes a singularly important contribution to the reparations debate. He argues that racial reconciliation in the United States can be achieved through reparations for American slavery and Jim Crow segregation, if such reparations are conceptualized in terms of atonement."--Melissa Nobles, MIT, author of "Shades of Citizenship: Race and the Census in Modern Politics

"In my "Case for Black Reparations, published in 1973, I called for a national debate on this painful subject. Professor Brooks has responded magnificently to this appeal, with a comprehensive and painstakingly thoughtful analysis of all aspects of this area. His book, in my opinion, will certainly become the standard examination of the issue. I recommend it with unqualified enthusiasm."--Boris I. Bittker, Professor Emeritus of Law, Yale University


Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first stage it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident.


When a government commits an atrocity against an innocent people, it has, at the very least, a moral obligation to apologize and to make that apology believable by doing something tangible called a “reparation. ” The government of the United States committed atrocities against black Americans for two and one-quarter centuries in the form of chattel slavery and for an additional one hundred years in the form of Jim Crow— what Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer refer to as “a law-enforced racial caste system” —and it has not even tendered an apology for either. The U. S. government should, in fact, atone— that is, both apologize and provide reparations—for racial slavery and apartheid. Saying “I'm sorry” just isn't enough.

Atonement would give our government moral credibility and direction through the fog that often engulfs contemporary racial matters. Black Americans, like any self-respecting people, can never forgive or fully trust our government on racial matters until it signals a clear understanding of the magnitude of the atrocities it committed against an innocent people. The past is the future. Atonement places the matter of forgiveness on the table. Forgiveness is black America's (the victim's) side of racial reconciliation. Atonement is served on the victim as a kind of civic subpoena. Acceptance is required to seal the deal, to make racial reconciliation pos-

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