Monday, February 18, 2008

Reading The Price of Racial Reconciliation

The Price of Racial Reconciliation
Ronald W. Walters
University of Michigan Press (March 2008)
Hardback, 249 pages

In The Price of Racial Reconciliation, Walters takes us seamlessly through the heavy subject of reparations and what it would take for racial reconciliation to actually happen in the United States by exploring what has happened in South Africa, and using that as a template for reparation movement in the U.S. .

Chapter two focuses on a brief, though in-depth, history of South Africa: how it became an Apartheid state, how racial oppression was commonplace in the Apartheid state and what consequences it wrought on the people-both Africans and white settlers. Also, different groups that developed through time, some extremely militant, some not so much.

Other subjects covered include: A Grand Narrative of Black American Oppression, Barriers to Truth and Reconciliation in America, The Persistence of Memory and The Globalization of African Reparations, among others.

There were plenty of thoughts that ran through my head while reading this.

Is the United States even close to considering reparations?

Also, the actual idea of reparations...How can you put a price to something like the question posed: "Who owes what for slavery?" The government doles out some money and an apology and it's supposed to erase the injustice (s) done in the past?
Walters attempts to go beyond that question, suggesting reparations are more than just money owed for the injustice. He also makes the point of 'money is money, especially if you are poor'.

It is interesting, the timing of publication for this book. 2008 being an election year in the United States and the issues this particular election is bringing up.

Some of what was discussed could easily be applied to women's history as well. You might think-what does racial oppression have to do with women? In his introduction, Walters suggests
"If an attempt to forget obscures a history (a set of memories) that is important to a subordinate group, this is another form of oppression."

What really exists of women's history?

Women have been oppressed throughout the world for centuries. Who owes what for the practice of foot binding, corset training or other mutilations suffered by women throughout hundreds of years? Should there be reparations for that? And how would that be played out? It would be impossible.

These are only some of the thoughts that occurred to me as I was reading this.

I will admit, the book is a heavy read with a heavy subject: the subject of reparations. But, if you can get through it, and understand it, it is very much worth reading.

University of Michigan Press
Photo from University of Michigan Press website

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