Reconciliation #3 – Reparations for Slavery
Before beginning this lesson plan, we recommend reading “Things to Think About Before Introducing Social Justice Topics.”
This lesson plan can be read in conjunction with “Chapter 4. Reconciliation” (pp. 69-82) in the freely available teaching resource Coping: A Philosophical Guide (Open Book Publishers, 2021) with discussion questions (pp. 124–5) and additional teaching materials (p. 119–20). The topic of reparations for slavery connects well with the issue of whether a genuine apology requires that there is a willingness to repair the harm and hurt caused.
In 2008, the US House of Representatives offered a formal apology for slavery and Jim Crow. Some people contend that an apology is only meaningful if there is genuine sympathy for the harm or hurt that was caused, and we show this sympathy by a willingness to repair the harm or hurt that was caused. This brings us to the debate on reparations for slavery. Rashawn Ray and Andre M. Perry “Why we Need Reparations for Black Americans” (Brookings 2020) is an article in favor of reparations and Jeff Jacoby “Reparations for Slavery are Unworkable—and Unjust” (Townhall.com2019) is an article against reparations.
Divide the students in two groups and let each group read one of the articles. Ask students to lay out the arguments for and the arguments against reparations. What are the weaker arguments? What are the stronger arguments? Where do they stand on the issue and how do they respond to counter arguments?
- Is it meaningful at all for Congress to apologize for slavery today? Why or why not?
- Could Congress meaningfully apologize for slavery and yet not pass any bills that offer reparation payments?
- If there are to be reparation payments, what format should they take?