The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


In this paper, I will argue that living white Americans with no individual ethical responsibility in original wrongdoings such as slavery, segregation and mass incarceration against African Americans in the United States have an obligation to repair the ongoing, present-day reproductions of past injuries. Using the Lockean inheritance argument for Black reparations laid out by Bernard R. Boxill as a starting point, I will show how a narrow conception of inheritance as property-based and merely legal is insufficient to justify reparations for non-property-based harms such as dignity loss or bodily violations. Drawing upon James Baldwin’s notion of history to explain the collective and structural nature of non-material harms caused by racial injustice, I’ll show how racist hierarchies of desert and value are historically transmitted and create obligations for present-day people to repair them.