Thursday, February 11, 2021

 

Lutheran circles have talked and written about the Issue of Reparations in the Past, This is a portion of an article in Lutheran Quarterly,  August 1975  [I have had difficulty scanning and editing for sharing on my blog and in this Facebook forum.  given those difficulties in the last 48 hours, I am not able to spend any more time in making it letter perfect. It is missing pages 214-219


Justice and Reparations:

The Black Manifesto Reconsidered  By MERLE LONGWOOD

 

                                                                                         Merle Longwood is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y.

 

C

 

 ONTEMPORARY discussions concerning "quotas" or "affirmative action" programs raise significant issues about the meaning of" justice" in our common life. Some have argued that "simple justice" requires that blacks and women be given preferential treatment in employment and educational opportunities, because blacks and women have been "unjustly" excluded from participation in these areas. Others have countered that such "reverse discrimination" cannot be morally justified and that giving preferential treatment to blacks and women would undermine justice, law, equality and the very foundations of our political society.

 

To provide some perspective on this debate, perhaps it would be helpful to examine carefully the argument for compensatory justice and reparations set forth in one of the most important documents of the contemporary liberation movement in America, the Black Manifesto. Let us first briefly recall the context within which that manifesto emerged and the responses it provoked in the nation's churches and synagogues.

 

It was immediately after May 4, 1969 that the news media across the nation recorded the shocked reactions of the white religious establishment to the interruption of a Sunday morning communion service at Riverside Church in New York by James Forman, a black militant leader. On that date, Forman read the Black Manifesto-which had been adopted at a three-day National Black Economic Development Conference (NBEDC), sponsored by the Interreligious
Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO) in Detroit a week earlier and presented demands for that congregation's share of the $500 million in reparations to black people that the manifesto stipulated white Christian churches and Jewish synagogues should pay. Although Forman had presented the manifesto, without specifying precise demands, to Episcopal Church leaders and the policy-making General Board of the National Council of Churches several days earlier, few Americans had heard of the Black Manifesto or its demands for reparations until the dramatic, disruptive event at the famous interdenominational church in Manhattan made front-page news from coast to coast.

   The manifesto was subsequently presented to several other Protestant, Catholic and Jewish groups, though Forman himself did not continue the practice of personally interrupting worship services.  In fact, in most instances in which Forman delivered the manifesto’s demands, the occasions were carefully prearranged.  However, there were disruptions at other places: denominational offices and church facilities in many cities were taken over temporarily by local groups—not always clearly identified with NBEDC—to underscore their specific demands.  On June 13, two months after the Riverside event, Forman revised the total amount upward to $3 billion in reparations to be raised by white churches and synagogues.[i][ii]

 

 

RESPONSES To THE MANIFESTO

 

 

   Most of us probably remember the manifesto most clearly by the controversy stirred by the radical (sometimes revolutionary,) rhetoric it contained, particularly in the introduction, which was titled: "Total Control as the Only Solution to the Economic Problems of Black People." There Forman claimed that "racism in the U.S. is so pervasive in the mentality' of whites that only an armed, well-disciplined, black-controlled government can insure the stamping out of
racism in this country" and that "we must commit ourselves to a society where the tot
al means of production are taken from the rich and placed into the hands of the state for the welfare of all the people.”[iii] Reactions by individuals and religious organizations tended to focus upon those comments and other similar statements scattered throughout the introduction. There was very little direct response or careful analysis of the central argument in the text of the manifest03-a demand of $500 million ("15 dollars per nigger," in Forman's words) in reparations from the white religious organizations to be used for: the establishment of a southern land bank, four publishing and printing industries, four television networks in four cities, centers for community organizing and communications training, assistance for the National Welfare Rights Organization, a National Black Labor Strike and Defense Fund, an International Black Appeal to establish cooperative black businesses, a black university in the South and an allocation of funds from IFCO to implement the manifesto's demands.

 

[1]  For Forman's own account of the Black Manifesto, see his The Making of Black Revolutionaries (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1972), pp. 543-50. Additional accounts of the presentation of the manifesto are contained in Arnold Schuchter, Reparations: The Black Manifesto and Its Challenge to White America (Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1970), pp. 2-27 and Robert S. Lecky and H. Elliott Wright, eds.,Black Manifesto: Religion, Racism and Repara-
tions (New York: Sheed and Ward, Inc., 1969), pp. 1-33. Extended coverage of the manifesto and responses to it was also provided by the New York Times in the following issues in 1969: May 5, pp.1,37; May 6, pp. 1,36,37; May 18, pp. 30, 80; May 22, pp. 1,39; May 23, p. 24; May 25, p. 66; June 30, p. 30; July 7, p. 18; July 27, pp. 1,54; September 15, pp. 1,51; September 27, p. 36; November 14, p. 35; December 21, Part IV, p. 13.

2 The text of the Black Manifesto is available in a number of published versions. The citations
here are from the version printed as Appendix 1 in Lecky and Wright, pp. 11

 

[1]   My concern in this essay is not to try to summarize all the responses of the various religious organizations to the manifesto; rather, I shall suggest that a basic perspective informed almost all of them and that the perspective failed to
accept or even address the argument of the manifesto on its own grounds. Before moving to that discussion, however, it may be helpful to illustrate the general reaction to the manifesto by selecting some representative comments.

   By and large, Jewish and Catholic organizations rejected the manifesto out of hand. The American Jewish Committee officially withdrew from IFCO because in the committee's opinion I FCO refused to take a "clear stand as to where it stood on the matter of the ideology of the Black Manifesto with its call to guerilla warfare and resort to arms to bring down the government."! The Synagogue Council of America, representing all branches of American Judaism, and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, composed of most of the Jewish civic and humanitarian organizations, rejected both the substantive demands of the manifesto and the tactics used to present the

demands "on both moral and practical grounds.”5 The Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox group, rejected the manifesto's demands" categorically," explaining that "just as we have the responsibility to combat white racism, so do we have the equal responsibility to combat black racism which tries-consciously or unconsciously-to perpetuate black racism. "6

   The response of the Archdiocese of New York was typical of---even if more harsh than most-official Roman Catholic reaction to the manifesto. Its statement rejecting the manifesto emphasized that it was" regrettable" that the manifesto related its concerns through "political concepts which are completely
contrary to our Am
erican way of life,"7 and went on to enumerate the numerous programs the archdiocese was providing for poor and black people. (Commonweal later editorialized that the archdiocese could surely have done better than to point to its charities and educational expenditures.8)

   Responses from Protestant church bodies were more varied. Almost all rejected the manifesto, but some did so by pointing to already existing programs organized to combat racism or poverty, whereas others did organize some new programs for black development. The Southern Baptist Convention, though not a direct recipient of manifesto demands, nevertheless approved a statement condemning the Black Manifesto:

 

The Council of the American Lutheran Church was almost as vehement in its rejection, objecting to the manifesto's “strong, course, inflammatory language;”10 but it promised to begin an aggressive program to focus on racism and poverty.

 

The Episcopal Church, at a special general convention, adopted a compromise measure calling for the raising of $200,000 for the National Committee of Black Churchmen (NCBC), an interdenominational group of black clergymen, rather than for NBEDC, and made special reference to a 1967 funding criterion which refused to allow funds to go to "any individual or group
which advocated the use of violence as part of its program." A resolution was adopted which rejected "much of th
e ideology of the' Black Manifesto' " but recognized NBEDC as a movement which is an "expression of self-determination for the organizing of the black community in America." Though money raised through this special fund eventually was channeled to NBEDC, the leaders of the church took pains to insist that the church's action should not be interpreted as a response to the manifesto. A


 [iii]   My concern in this essay is not to try to summarize all the responses of the various religious organizations to the manifesto; rather, I shall suggest that a basic perspective informed almost all of them and that the perspective failed to

accept or even address the argument of the manifesto on its own grounds. Before moving to that discussion, however, it may be helpful to illustrate the general reaction to the manifesto by selecting some representative comments.

   By and large, Jewish and Catholic organizations rejected the manifesto out of hand. The American Jewish Committee officially withdrew from IFCO because in the committee's opinion I FCO refused to take a "clear stand as to where it stood on the matter of the ideology of the Black Manifesto with its call to guerilla warfare and resort to arms to bring down the government."! The Synagogue Council of America, representing all branches of American Judaism, and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, composed of most of the Jewish civic and humanitarian organizations, rejected both the substantive demands of the manifesto and the tactics used to present the

demands "on both moral and practical grounds.”5 The Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox group, rejected the manifesto's demands" categorically," explaining that "just as we have the responsibility to combat white racism, so do we have the equal responsibility to combat black racism which tries-consciously or unconsciously-to perpetuate black racism. "6

   The response of the Archdiocese of New York was typical of---even if more harsh than most-official Roman Catholic reaction to the manifesto. Its statement rejecting the manifesto emphasized that it was" regrettable" that the manifesto related its concerns through "political concepts which are completely
contrary to our Am
erican way of life,"7 and went on to enumerate the numerous programs the archdiocese was providing for poor and black people. (Commonweal later editorialized that the archdiocese could surely have done better than to point to its charities and educational expenditures.8)

   Responses from Protestant church bodies were more varied. Almost all rejected the manifesto, but some did so by pointing to already existing programs organized to combat racism or poverty, whereas others did organize some new programs for black development. The Southern Baptist Convention, though not a direct recipient of manifesto demands, nevertheless approved a statement condemning the Black Manifesto:

 

The Council of the American Lutheran Church was almost as vehement in its rejection, objecting to the manifesto's “strong, course, inflammatory language;”10 but it promised to begin an aggressive program to focus on racism and poverty.

 

The Episcopal Church, at a special general convention, adopted a compromise measure calling for the raising of $200,000 for the National Committee of Black Churchmen (NCBC), an interdenominational group of black clergymen, rather than for NBEDC, and made special reference to a 1967 funding criterion which refused to allow funds to go to "any individual or group
which advocated the use of violence as part of its program." A resolution was adopted which rejected "much of th
e ideology of the' Black Manifesto' " but recognized NBEDC as a movement which is an "expression of self-determination for the organizing of the black community in America." Though money raised through this special fund eventually was channeled to NBEDC, the leaders of the church took pains to insist that the church's action should not be interpreted as a response to the manifesto. A press release announcing the voluntary offering to raise money for the fund made this clear. It read, in part: "This fund should not be considered a response to the Black Manifesto, nor an acceptance of the concept of reparations. Rather, it was understood as an expression of trust in the black leadership of the church.”11

 

The closest any Protestant national body came to endorsing the manifesto was the statement issued by the General Board of the National Council of Churches, which is not, of course, a denomination but an agency serving its member churches. The Board, while "rejecting the ideology of the Black Manifesto,"
declared that it was" aware of the grievances of the black people of this nation" and "acknowledges the Black Economic Development Conference as a programmatic expression of the aspirations of black churchmen." The Board also voted to ask its 33 member denominations to raise $500 million and to give it,
without condition as to its use
, to NCBC and IFCO.12

 

Although many individual churchmen (especially black church-men), a Catholic group of lay people, several ad hoc groups and at least one congregation endorsed the demand for reparations as a just means for compensating blacks for discrimination inflicted in the past,13 almost all the churches-especially at official or national denominational levels-rejected the idea of reparations as an appropriate moral justification for providing remedies to combat racism or poverty afflicting black people. Before I attempt to make

9 Christian Century 86 (July 16,1969), p. 961.

10 Christian Century 87 (February 11,1970), p. 186.

11 Christian Century 86 (October I, 1969), pp. 1262-64. For additional accounts of the response
of the Episcopal Church see Judy M. Foley,
"Dealing with a Manifesto," The Episcopalian 134
(July, 1969), pp. 11
-12, and David Owen, "A Tale of Two Conferences-Part II," Renewal 9 (September-October, 1969), pp. 20-21.

12 Christian Century 86 (October 1,1969), p. 1239.

13 Christian Century 87 (February 11, 1970), pp. 186-88; New York Times, July 7, 1969, p. 18;
New York Times
, June 10, 1970, pp. 49, 74.

 

some generalizations about the responses of the churches, however, it might be appropriate to reconstruct the argument of the manifesto, for it is the merits of that argument which must be appraised if we are going to attempt to view the manifesto as having more than momentary significance.

THE CENTRAL ARGUMENT OF THE MANIFESTO

It is clear to any reader of the manifesto that its central argument is not easy to separate from the more peripheral issues in the document. The argument is intertwined with revolutionary rhetoric, remarks expressing passionate indignation, posturing threats to the white community, generalized predictions about the future of America and the world and a brief sketch of how the reparation monies would be used once they are secured, Therefore, it is necessary to concentrate on some of the most essential points in order not to be confused or distracted from the basic ethical argument justifying reparations to black people, The reconstructed argument below contains some premises drawn directly from the text of the manifesto-either 'as precise quotations or paraphrases-and some premises which are interpolations of what seem to be the tacit assumptions underlying some of the explicit assertions in the text of the
document
.14

l. In the early history of slavery, blacks were wrenched from a" continent of peace" and brought into" a hostile and alien environment" where they" have been living in perpetual warfare since 1619" (p. 119),

2. The result has been that blacks have suffered enormously" from racism and exploitation, cultural degradation and lack of political power," all of which was caused by and is perpetuated by the white capitalistic power structure (pp. 114, 116-17).

3, The white Christian churches and Jewish synagogues are "part and parcel of the system of capitalism" -in fact, they are" another form of government in this country" -and as such they have actively exploited and continue to be used by a government to exploit non-white people throughout the world (pp, 118, 119,120,125).15

4. The black people in America are "the vanguard force" among exploited people now seeking to throw off their oppressors (p, 116).

 5. American blacks are the legitimate heirs of the original victims of slavery in this country, and as such they can include in their heritage the harm and injury suffered by their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.

14 In developing this reconstruction of the argument of the Black Manifesto, I am indebted to Hugo A. Bedau, "Compensatory Justice and the Black Manifesto," The Monist 20 (1972), pp. 20-42.
The page references are to the version of the manifesto published in Leck
y and Wright. Where no page references occur, the premises are my own interpolations.

15 The ways in which the western missionary movement has been inadvertently coupled with the economic, industrial, cultural and political expansion of modern Europe and America into all parts of the world is examined by Daisuke Kitagawa in ..'Racial' Man in the Modern World," in Man in Community, ed. Egbert deVries (New York: Association Press, 1966), pp. 140-52.

6. The present existing white religious organizations, which affirm their historical identification with their forebears, are liable'" to present living blacks for the harm inflicted by the historical religious organizations upon blacks in the past.

7. Historical slavery and its continuing aftermath of institu-tional racism had and has as one of its primary aims" developing the industrial base of the western world," particularly the United States, which is "the most industrialized country in the world" (pp. 118, 125, 119).17

8. The wealth exacted by this systemic exploitation has been fantastic; it amounts to billions of dollars. 18

9. Much of this tremendous wealth has directly benefited white religious organizations, "the white Christian churches and synagogues," or their individual members (p. 120).

10. By way of contrast, almost none of this wealth benefited those who were exploited over the centuries; they were denied the fruits of their labor.

11. This wealth has accumulated through the profits of an unjust, exploitative system, and consequently it represents an unjust enrichment's for white America.

 

16 Bedau, pp. 27-69, distinguishes "liability" from "guilt." The latter suggests a context in which punitive sanctions are appropriate, whereas the former involves responsibility but not a punitive remedy. For a more extended discussion of the difference between "guilt" and "liability," and the need to confine corporate responsibility to the latter, see Joel Feinberg, "Collective Responsibility," in his Doing and Deserving (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), pp. 231-33.

17 Historians are divided in their opinions about how profitable the institution of slavery was in its contribution to the economic development of this country. A sample of this discussion can be found in Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (New York: Capicorn Books, 1966) and Robert S. Starobin, Industrial Slavery in the Old South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970). Stanley M. Elkins also addresses this question in Appendix B of his excellent study, Slavery (2nd ed., Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1969). For an analysis of the continuing effects of racism and
di
scrimination in relation to poverty, see Lester C. Thurow, Poverty and Discrimination (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1969).

18 There have been a number of attempts in recent years to calculate the economic value of the labor supplied by black slaves to the development of America's economy. See especially the contributions by Richard America, Brian G. M. McMain, Jim Marketti and Robert S. Browne to a collection of essays devoted to" reparations" in Review of Black Political Economy 2 (Winter,1972)
Other significant discussions of the economics of slavery are: Alfred H. Conrad and John R. Meyer, "The Economics of Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South," Journal of Political Economy 66 (April,1958); pp. 95-130; T. W. Schultz, "Investment in Human Capital," American Economic Review 51(March, 1961), pp. 1-17; Gary S. Becker, "Investments in Human Capital: A Theoretical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy 70 (October, 1962), Supplement 70, pp. 9-49;Julian Simon and Larry Neal," A Calculation of the Black Reparations Bill," Review of Black Political Economy 4 (Winter, 1974), pp. 75-85.

  19 Construing reparations in terms of the legal notion of unjust enrichment makes it possible to avoid the problems of attempting to interpret the situation of black Americans vis-a-vis the white re- ligious institutions according to the analogy of treaty violations or war reparations. For a careful discussion of this interpretation, see Bedau, pp. 32-34. Additional discussions of the legal case for reparations for black people can be found in Graham Hughes, "Reparations for Blacks?" New York University Law Review 43 (December, 1968), pp. 1062-74; Daisy G. Collins, "The United States Owes Reparations to Its Black Citizens," Howard Law Joumal16 (Fall, 1970), pp. 82-114; and Boris I. Bittker, The Case for Black Reparations (New York: Random House, Inc., 1973).

 

12. The white religious organizations, as is true of all segments of the white establishment, have benefited from this unjust enrichment.

13. This unjust enrichment provides the ethical basis for justifying compensation or "reparations" to blacks (pp. 118, 119, 120, 122, 124, 126).

14. Compensation should thus be paid to and on behalf of" all black people" by the white established institutions (pp. 125, 126).

15. One of the" power centers" of the white establishment is in the religious institutions, a'nd they can legitimately be required to pay their share of the compensation (p. 125).

16. The reparations funds will be used to establish communications, political, economic and educational institutions to enable blacks to develop the individual and communal skills of which their heritage of slavery and abiding institutional
racism has deprived
them (pp. 120-22).

17. The sum of $500 million, or" $15 per nigger," is only" a beginning of the reparations due" black people by the white religious organizations; even more will be demanded "from the United States Government" (pp. 119-20,125).

18. The white religious organizations are getting off easy; the demands made upon them of fifteen dollars per black person are small demands (p. 125).

19. The white Christian churches and Jewish synagogues can afford to pay $500 million reparations, for they have "tremendous wealth" (p. 125).20

20. Therefore, the white Christian churches and Jewish synagogues in America must pay $500 million in reparations to the black community.

Further premises could be elaborated, but in my opinion the essential argument of the manifesto is contained in this summary. It is important to emphasize the argument, because many of the responses to the manifesto were more concerned with the document's rhetoric, often flamboyant and crudely Marxist, than with the central argument. Thus, for example, the Council of the
Ameri
can Lutheran Church and the Southern Baptist Convention did not attempt to refute the manifesto's ethical argument,21 they dismissed the manifesto either because 'they regarded the language as impolite or inflammatory or because they regarded the document as an attempt at extortion rather than a moral pronouncement deserving serious attention.

   Other individuals and groups specifically rejected the mani-festo because they did not accept the concept of reparations, and the reasons they gave for that were varied. Some would not accept the logic of financial atonement by today's whites for sins committed by others in the past; some rejected the idea of reparations because they regarded it as a too cheap means of assuaging guilt. A few affirmed reparations as morally justi-fiable but questioned whether Forman and NBEDC were the approp-riate agencies to receive and dispense reparation monies.22

  20 There is no thorough and carefully documented study of the amount of wealth the churches have. There is some discussion of this in D. B. Robertson's Should the Churches be Taxed? (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1968). See also Lecky and Wright, pp. 29-33, and Schuchter, pp. 175-80.

21 See pp. 205-6 above.

ALTERNATIVES To "REPARATIONS" As AN ETHICAL ARGUMENT

 

The more profound critiques, however, came from individuals and groups who were deeply committed to efforts to develop programs or policies to combat racism and poverty. These critiques affirmed the need for intensive efforts to assist those for whom the manifesto ostensibly spoke, but rejected the moral justifi-cation provided by the manifesto and offered an alternative justification for programs for economic development for blacks. Perhaps the clearest examples of alternative justificatory arguments are provided by Michael Harrington and Arnold Kaufman in two brief articles that appeared together in Dissent under
th
e title" Black Reparations-Two Views."23 I shall develop and extend their discussions in detail, because they contain in compacted form the alternative ethical arguments a number of religious organizations and other individuals used to justify directing special energies and funds to the black community.

The thrust of Harrington's critique of the manifesto was that it developed its argument for economic development in the black community in terms of reparations for wrongs inflicted in the past, whereas the real argument ought to have been one that justified a redistribution of present social resources so as to
compensate blacks who are disadvantaged by the social-economic system as it is presently constituted. He called the Black Manifesto" an outlandish scheme, which would not work in the unlikely event that it were even tried."24 He argued that reparations were irrelevant and unwarranted, because even if they were made they would do little to redistribute wealth in our society. Harrington feared" there is a very real danger that political energy will be diverted from the real struggle" of challenging the system which provides such a grossly unequal
distribution of income in America He saw the real struggle that needs to take place including two basic dimensions: (1) a policy of" genuine full employment, which means eliminating underemployment, as well as joblessness," and (2) "through a massive, planned, and sound investment on the part of the
government to do away with the slums and to create new careers in health care, education, beautification, and the like. "26

There are two distinguishable points in Harrington's critique of the manifesto. The first point is pragmatic: demanding reparations will not work and will quite possibly be counter-productive. Forman's "proposal could well divert precious political energies from the actual struggle."27 The second point is that reparations are unwarranted and irrelevant, because they would do little to equalize incomes anyway. Kaufman differed from Harrington on both points. Unlike Harrington, Kaufman believed that the manifesto would strengthen "the political will to support vast enlargement of compensatory governmental programs."28

 

 

22 Christian Century 87 (February 11, 1970), p. 185; New York Times, June 10, 1970, pp. 49, 74; Lecky and Wright, pp. 16-29; Schuchter, pp. 2-27.

23 Michael Harrington and Arnold S. Kaufman, "Black Reparations-Two Views," Dissent 16 (July-August, 1969),pp.317-20

24 Ibid.,, p. 317

25 Ibid.

26 lbid., p. 318.

   27 Ibid.

28 iu«, p. 319.  

 


He believed that the political significance of Forman's dramatic
presentation of the demands of the manifesto extended far beyond the intended consequences of securing reparations from the churches. Kaufman's expectation was that the moral issues raised concretely in relation to nongovernmental institutions, the churches, would have a significant impact on legislative action as a growing constituency is brought to accept the case for compensatory justice.

 

Harrington's and Kaufman's first point of disagreement is determined by their different assessments of the political effectiveness in relation to governmental institutions of the Black Manifesto's demands for reparations. To determine whether Harrington or Kaufman was correct would require an extended analysis of a number of complex political developments that occurred during the past five years, and such an inquiry would take us far beyond the scope of this paper.

 

Kaufman also differed with Harrington on the point that reparations are unwarranted and irrelevant because they would not remedy unequal income distribution in America. Harrington did not oppose special compensatory programs that he believed would effectively raise the income of the poor. He called for programs that would create new careers for the poor in a variety of fields. But his justification for them was one of redistribution of the wealth of the society rather than of reparations for past wrongs. Though Kaufman, like Harrington, was primarily concerned with governmental programs that would
improve the lot of the economically disadvantaged, he did endorse the principle of reparations as a way of providing a justification for this. Kaufman summarized his understanding of the principle as follows:

 

The demand that the sons of slavemasters make restitution to the sons of slaves rests on the claim that the former enjoy great and undeserved benefits, the latter suffer grave and undeserved
disabilities, as a result of accidents of social inheritance directly connected to the existence of slavery.29

 

Though he did not use the terminology, this interpretation of the principle of reparations is essentially that of the unjust enrichment concept articulated in the above summary of the manifesto's central argument. 30

 

In the final analysis, however, neither Kaufman nor Harrington viewed rectification of the wrongs done to black people in terms of reparations, or the form of justice that would require that people receive compensation for harm that has been inflicted on them. Harrington, in arguing for policies that would bring
about a redis
tribution of wealth rather than reparations, really viewed the moral problem as one of distributive justice rather than compensatory justice. The distinction between the two is important, and one to which few of the recent discussions of justice by contemporary philosophers have given sufficient    attention. John Rawls, for example, in the most elaborate discussion of justice in recent times, views justice primarily as "a standard whereby the distributive aspects of the basic structure of society are to be assessed." Institutions are just

when no arbitrary distinctions are made between persons in the assigning of basic rights and duties and when the rules determine a proper balance between competing claims to the advantages of social life. 31

 

Rawls seldom even mentions compensatory justice, because he is concerned to develop a theory of distributive justice.

 

The chief difference between compensatory justice and distributive justice depends, respectively, on whether an individual receives a benefit on account of some injury he has suffered or on the basis of some basic distributive principles
which assign rights and duties and determine the dis
tribution of burdens and benefits of social cooperation. Distributive justice, therefore, is concerned with the principles that govern the creation of a system of rights (and consequently of duties and obligations) and distribution of societal benefits, providing equal consideration for all, whereas compensatory justice comes into operation when the scheme delineated by distributive justice has been infringed. The aim of compensatory justice is to restore the enjoyment of the infringed right, or if that is impossible to provide compensation to the injured party.32

 

Philosophers of previous generations were not much more helpful than contemporary philosophers in explaining how compensation or reparations fits into a theory of justice. Henry Sidgwick, for example, wrote:

        We have already noticed this as a simple deduction from the maxim of general Benevolence, which forbids us to do harm to our fellow-creatures: for if we have harmed them, we can yet approximately obey the maxim by giving compensation for the harm. Though here the question arises whether we are bound to make reparation for harm that has been quite blamelessly caused: and it is not easy to answer it decisively. On the whole, I think we should condemn a man who did not offer some reparation for any serious injury caused by him to another-even if quite involuntarily caused, and without negligence: but perhaps we regard this rather as a duty of Benevolence-arising out of the
g
eneral sympathy that each ought to have for others, intensified by this special occasion-than as a duty of strict Justice. 33

But whether viewed as a duty of justice or benevolence (and Sidgwick viewed the latter as the more basic moral principle), Sidgwick did regard reparations as fundamentally important in social morality. Harrington's critique of the manifesto ignores this consideration, or at least he does not regard it as the crucial issue which ought to be emphasized if blacks are to receive their fair share of the society's wealth. The first of the crucial issues he regards as most important in the contemporary struggle-full employment-could be justified by classical utilitarianism and welfare economics; the second-providing training for certain kinds of jobs-could be justified by distributive justice construed in the particular way I will emphasize in a moment. The point is that the concept of
repa
rations has no relation to either of these two. Kaufman's response to the manifesto is somewhat more difficult to
characterize, for he did accept the principle of repara
tions, even though his real concern was less a matter of restitution or payment for injury than a matter of providing compensatory programs. But when" compensation" is discussed in these terms it is probably more appropriate to interpret it in terms of dis-
tributive justice than in terms of compensatory justice. The different understandings of compensation when viewed from those perspectives require further elucidation.

 

COMPENSATION IN DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE
AND COMPENSATORY JUSTICE

The basic distinction between the two notions of compensation was suggested by Richard Lichtman in an article, "The Ethics of Compensatory Justice,"34 which preceded the promulgation of the Black Manifesto by several years but nevertheless anticipated some of the discussion which followed the manifesto.
Lichtman argued that the pas
t suffering of the black person

 

seems beyond the remedy of society to redeem. There is no payment that can supply its balance. It would be a sign of contempt for the Negro should the white community offer to compensate this debt, for there are trials of the spirit too large and awesome to stand comparison with any good that might be proposed as their measure. But the remaining evils of special incapacity and relative disadvantage in access to equal condition in society-equal role, status, location, facility, service and wealth, in short, to the content of" equal law" -can be remedied, and we are obliged to do so. That is, though the strictly compensatory act of payment for past suffering is impossible, the reparative or corrective aspects of compensation which attend the present and future are well within our power. 35

 

 

33 Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1966), pp. 281-
82.

34 Richard Lichtman, "The Ethics of Compensatory Justice," Law in Transition Quarterly 1
(Sprin&, 1964), pp. 76-103.



214

 

Compensation oriented toward the present and future, rather than the past, can provide a justification for benign quotas and preferential treatment in areas such as housing, education and employment-the areas both Harrington and Kaufman want to see emphasized. A number of individuals and a small number of church groups also supported programs of these kinds. My concern at this point is not to evaluate the merit of such programs, but to make it clear that a justification for them involves an understanding of justice not viewed in terms of reparations but rather in terms of distributive justice construed in terms of the definition "to each according to his need." Curiously, even Calvin B. Marshall, chairman of the Black Economic Development Conference, in his criticism of the failure of the churches to respond to the manifesto appeal viewed this as evidence of their "refusing to consider human need ... "36

The distinction here is subtle and requires further elaboration. If distributive justice construed in terms of treating people according to their need is understood as the justification for programs specifically directed toward those whom the manifesto wanted to assist, the definition of" need" must be enlarged to include those special liabilities resulting from past deprivation. If compensation is
understood as a provision of remedies for the present and future for injuries which occurred in the past, rather than a payment or restitution for past harm or wrong-doing, the provision is not directly measured by the amount of past deprivation, but rather by the amount of present need.

  An argument for compensation interpreted in such a framework could be developed as follows. Present needs are great, precisely because the long history of discrimination against the black man has created problems that cannot be remedied by just lifting present discriminatory barriers, even if that could be
magically accomplished. If the parents of a black child were reared in Mississippi, where the educational system kept many blacks illiterate and the culture inculcated in them a dismal outlook not only for their own future but for that of their children, that child will need special remedial instruction and
perhaps personal
' counseling that a white middle-class child will not if he is equally to realize his potential. If black men have for generations been denied the opportunity to acquire technical skills, most recently because of discriminatory policies of labor unions, especially in the crafts, opening up those unions to all technically qualified will not enable them to become skilled workers; rather a conscientious and deliberate effort must be made to include blacks in membership and training programs. Thus one could argue that treatment to fulfill these special needs is required by justice to bring about full equality of opportunity and to make up for discrimination-caused disadvantages.37

 

It is difficult to determine whether such treatment is required because of racial discrimination suffered or simply because of present, objectively-determined need.38 There is a close congruence between the effects of racial discrimination and certain basic needs. For example, a black ghetto child who attends a ghetto school may require special services, a remedial program and additional personnel, because of the needs created by the past experiences which he and his fellows, as well as their ancestors for many generations, suffered because of discrimination; but in that case the compensatory treatment he receives would be directed toward his present need, not to the past discrimination. Is the compensatory treatment the child receives one which is provided him because of his race or because he lives in an educationally deprived area? In this
in
stance, the practical result is the same either way, but the distinction is important for two reasons. First, if past racial discrimination rather than present need were the basis for compensatory treatment, every black person, regardless of present status, would be entitled to compensation, for none have totally escaped the effects of past and present discrimination.

 

35 iu«, pp. 87-88. +

36 New York Times, June 10,1970, p. 53

37 Important recent discussions related to the topic of "preferential hiring" or "inverse discrimination" include: J. L. Cowen, "Inverse Discrimination," Analysis 33, no. 1 (1972), pp. 10-12; Paul Taylor, .. Reverse Discrimination and Compensatory Justice," Analysis 33, no. 4 (1973), pp. 177-82;
Judith Jarvis Thompson, "Preferential Hiring," Philosophy and Public Affairs 2, no. 4 (Summer, 1973), pp. 364-84; and Robert Simon, "Preferential Hiring: A Reply to Judith Jarvis Thompson," Philosophy and Public Affairs 3, no. 3 (Spring, 1974), pp. 312-20.

38 Peter Marcuse has developed this distinction, though coming to the opposite conclusions from those developed in this presentation of the case for treatment based on need, in his contribution to Equality, ed. Charles Abrams (New York: Random House, Inc., 1965), pp. 136-9l.

 

 

 

The most brilliant black scholar in a major university would have an equally just claim for compensation with the unemployed worker on the ghetto street corner. It is possible that the scholar has suffered as greatly from injuries inflicted by discrimination as the unemployed worker has, and he or she may have accomplished even more if he or she had not suffered the injuries inflicted by discrimination. Thus discrimination based on race alone creates certain needs that deserve to be met, if one defines "need" in terms of the difference between what an individual has or what he is, and what an individual should have to be that which he is capable of being. But according to the view we are developing here, this is too much to expect of public policy and the most that can be justified is a concept of need that implies that there is a normative state or condition, the absence of which is, or is likely to be, detrimental to the well-being of the individual in question. If certain aspects of that state or condition are absent, the individual can right-fully be considered deprived.39

  This latter definition of "need," defined in terms of the difference between what an individual has and what he requires to achieve a level or standard which society recognizes as a minimum, more clearly  differentiates treatment based on "race" and "need" and may be more workable as a criterion for designing and justifying an educational or economic policy which incorporates a compensatory principle. Secondly, if "race" rather than "need" were the basis for compensatory policies, many Americans who are not black but who have still suffered disadvantages from social and economic structures would be excluded. Many inequalities have not come about because of racial discrimination, but are nonetheless societally inflicted deprivations over which the victims had no control. Though there are significant differences between their particular needs at some levels, especially at the most basic economic level, many Americans from a wide variety of backgrounds-Indian Americans, Mexican-Americans, rural and urban white Americans-share an existence in poverty which is at least in part caused by social forces over which they had no control. Therefore, according to this argument, though one can distinguish between compensatory treatment on the basis of "race" and "need," the latter seems to be the more appropriate criterion for directing social policy.

 

William Lee Miller has stated well this understanding of an expanded notion of society's obligation to respond to special" needs" created by societally imposed deprivation in his summary of the changing and developing goals of the civil rights movement in the twentieth century:

 

The first barrier, legal segregation, has been technically overcome; the second barrier, racial dis-
crimination, is being overcome, so far as law and all sorts of corporate action can do it; we are
coming now to the third barrier-society-made economic and educational disadvantage." 40

 

 

 

 

 

39 For an interesting discussion of the concept of "need," see R. S. Peters, The Concept of Motivation (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1958), pp. 17-18,104-106.

40 William Lee Miller, The Fifteenth Ward and the Great Society (Boston and Cambridge: Houghton Mifflin Company and the Riverside Press, 1966), p. 186

 

Thus a strong case can be made for viewing compensation as a requirement of distributive justice interpreted in terms of need. Compensatory programs, from this point of view, are essentially" forward looking." 41 That is, such programs are designed to alleviate whatever disabilities stand in the way of a person's securing some future good. It does not really take into account how these disabilities came about; the real concern is to attend to whatever disabilities exist so that those who are so afflicted may be brought to the point where they can compete equally with others in the society. According to this understanding of compensation, therefore, the history of injustices and exploitation suffered by black people is not the relevant basis for their compensatory treatment. What is strictly relevant is that such compensatory treatment is necessary if some future goods-such as equality of income, decent living conditions, capacity for competing for available jobs, quality education, etc.-are to be secured. Or, to put it
in other words, be
cause there are a multitude of causes which may bring about special needs, the present condition of black people could have been produced by anyone of-or any combination of-a large number of these causes. Compensation is intended to remedy the present situation, however it may have been produced; and to know the present situation and how to remedy it does not necessarily require us to know exactly how it was brought about, whether by injustice or some other causes over which no one had any real control. In terms of objective need, there are white as well as black workers who are almost totally unskilled, white as well as black youths in need of jobs, white as well as black
chi
ldren in need of remedial education.

By way of contrast, compensation construed in terms of reparations is essentially "backward looking." Reparations are due because a breach of justice has occurred. Therefore, according to this point of view, reparations to black people are required precisely because of the fact that blacks have collectively suffered from a history of injustice and exploitation. Reparations may not remedy completely the ill effects of these past deeds, but they provide a formal acknowledgement of the wrongs committed as the basis for the payment made to the injured parties. In brief, whereas the aim of compensation construed as a requirement of distributive justice to meet special needs is to procure some future good, the aim of compensation construed as reparations is to rectify past injustices.

  Those who argue for compensation based on need as a requirement of distributive justice fail to acknowledge the moral claim inherent in a demand for reparations. It is probably true that the money provided as reparations to black people would not be adequate to meet the needs of those who have been deprived or exploited in the past, even if the sum were greater than the $500 million or $3 billion proposed by the spokesmen for the Black Manifesto, so compensatory programs based on special needs would still be necessary. But compensatory programs alone cannot meet all the requirements of justice.

4