A Racial Divide

By Sasha Polakow-Suransky ’01 / July / August 2003
June 22nd, 2007
Public views about the value of paying reparations for past injustices vary greatly according to race. In research conducted over the past few years by Michael Dawson, a professor of government and Afro-American studies at Harvard, 59 percent of blacks say they supported government payment of monetary reparations for Japanese American victims of internment during World War II; only 26 percent of whites favored such payments. (In 1988 Congress passed a law paying $20,000 to each of the 60,000 surviving Japanese American detainees.) The divergence is even more dramatic when the issue is paying reparations to African Americans for slavery: 67 percent of blacks favored it, compared to only 4 percent of whites. The rift in perceptions between white and black Americans may be related to how each race views slavery’s aftereffects. Dawson has found that 64 percent of whites believe that blacks have or will soon achieve equality, a view shared by only 22 percent of blacks.—S.P.-S.
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July / August 2003