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Unfinished Business. Racial Junctures in US History and Their Legacy

Lyons, David
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In, Lukas H. Meyer, ed., Justice in Time: Responding to Historical Injustice. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft. Pp. 271-298.

In this chapter, David Lyons examines what he terms the creation of racial hierarchy in the United States, its perpetuation, and its persisting consequences. He does this by looking at certain “racial juncturesâ€? in U.S. history. These are brief periods – one in each of the four centuries since the establishment of British colonies in North America – of crucial developments with respect to racial status and race relations. In particular, he focuses on decisions that affected African Americans directly. This, he states, is because their enslavement and subsequent history most profoundly determined racial stratification in the U.S. The first three junctures – the creation of chattel slavery, the legal entrenchment of slavery, and the first quasi-reconstruction – involved the development and embrace of racial stratification, with alternative paths rejected. The fourth – the second quasi-reconstruction – led to a formal repudiation of racial hierarchy but not necessarily a substantial difference in actual circumstances. Lyons purpose in looking at all of this is to consider the moral implications of race in the U.S. with a view to responsibility and rectification of past injustices and their persisting consequences.


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