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The Legacy of Injustice. Wronging the Future, Responsibility for the Past

Kumar, Rahul
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In, Lukas H. Meyer, ed., Justice in Time: Responding to Historical Injustice. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft. Pp. 145-158.

Do African-Americans today have a valid claim in seeking redress for themselves for the historical wrongs of slavery in America? As Rahul Kumar and David Silver comment, the question is difficult to answer because of a number of sub-questions that must be addressed to answer the larger question. These sub-questions include such matters as what the demand is, what its basis is, who the wronged party or parties are, and to whom the demand is directed. Kumar and Silver make clear that consideration of these issues is very complicated – too complicated to be discussed adequately in this essay. Hence, they focus on exploring one way of explaining, in principle, a basis for African-American claims for rectification of the historical injustice of slavery. They first identify the central claim – namely, that present-day African-Americans have a claim for rectification by the state because of the state’s role in slavery. With this in mind, and employing in particular a contractualist account of moral wrongness, they then examine the following: questions pertaining to past wrongs extending forward in time; slavery as a particular kind of wrong or injustice; and responsibility for historical wrongs, especially with respect to the state and the American people.


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