Fair play, white advantage, and black reparations
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation advances a new argumentative approach to the political problem of black reparations in the contemporary United States appealing to the normative principle of fair play. Among its core presumptions is the view that getting appreciable numbers of white Americans to acknowledge what I call the primary normative case for black reparations will require, among other things, a new kind of discursive move, namely: the deployment of an intermediary case designed to facilitate recognition of the primary one. The two central tasks of my dissertation are to establish the need for such an intermediary case, and to make it via my novel fair play argument. My approach to fair play reasoning involves three main innovations: First, I introduce the possibility of deploying that framework in a corrective mode, to ground redistributive obligations on the part of members of systemically advantaged groups, but which do not imply guilt or blame. Second, in arguing for that deployment, I offer a novel conception of free-riding which I call externalist insofar as it defines the latter without reference to the relevant agents’ mental states. Third, I argue that in a range of cases those corrective obligations of fair play can qualify as reparative despite the fact that their normative force is not determined by direct reference to any discrete wrong, or what I call extrinsically reparative. A key plank of my proposal is the empirical claim that the lens of fair play is better suited to overcoming many of the moral and social psychological obstacles that have long plagued political progress on black reparations in the U.S. I defend this claim by drawing upon various strands of the empirical literature on white racial identity in connection with attitudes toward race-sensitive social policies generally. I argue that it is only upon being safely confronted with the details of how their very whiteness precipitates the nonvoluntary receipt of various unearned material advantages that white Americans will begin to perceive their own personal involvement in America’s long history of racial injustice, and feel a new kind of pressure to do something about it.