Reparations 4.0: Trading In Older Models for a New Vehicle

Reparations reappeared in the news even before the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others made headlines as modern-day lynchings. As data continue to show the perpetuation of social and economic harm and hardship that Black Americans suffer for being Black Americans, notions of fairness and justice suggest redress for slavery and its rippling harms should be possible. But is it? Generations of powerful Black Americans have spoken against the bitter realities of American law, from Frederick Douglass to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Ta-Nehisi Coates, yet the history of reparations and response by the courts show that moral wrongs do not create legal rights. This Note revisits reparations to examine past efforts and considers how reckoning with and atonement for the past might be successful today. Older models of reparations focused on monetary compensation, but race-conscious remedies are unlikely to survive the Supreme Court’s scrutiny. Instead, reparations emphasizing rehabilitative benefits may be a more effective vehicle today.