Dissertation Defense Announcement
College of Arts and Sciences announces the Final Dissertation Defense of
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
April 3, 2019 at 3:00 PM in Clement Hall, Room 329
Advisor: Remy Debes
Social Recognition as a Problem for Black Rectificatory Justice
ABSTRACT: Within academic circles, arguments supporting the rectification of anti-Black injustice in America have become more widespread in recent years. Three questions arise from these arguments: How should we understand what it means to rectify those injustices? What explains why these arguments, despite the increased attention by scholars, have not been taken seriously in mainstream American social and political discussions? Finally, what can be done to change this lack of mainstream attention? My dissertation answers these questions by advancing a new moral framework for understanding what it means to rectify anti-black injustice. On this view, rectificatory justice requires possessing a moral right to rectification, a right that Black Americans would have if moral rights possession was based solely on making morally justified demands. Possessing and ultimately exercising moral rights requires more than having moral justification – it requires being socially recognized in a certain sort of way, such that morally justified demands become a social reality. Correspondingly, even though Black Americans are making morally justified demands, they do not yet possess a moral right to rectification because of how they are socially recognized. This constrains the social and political potential of arguments supporting rectificatory measures, like reparations. Some have argued that Black Americans have already gained rectificatory justice through anti-discrimination legislation and programs like affirmative action. Although they appear to be rectificatory, they do not meet the standards of rectificatory justice because they do not take responsibility for creating the conditions of injustice, preferring to focus on preventing future versions of similar forms of injustice. Since Black Americans have not received rectificatory justice but are making morally justified demands, what is required for them to possess a right to rectification is a change in how they are socially recognized. By amending the cultural narrative regarding anti-Black injustice as an enduring phenomenon rather than a historic one, and endeavoring to produce a sense of justice within mainstream America regarding anti-Black injustice, it may be possible to change how Black Americans are socially recognized such that they possess a right to rectification.