Race, Reckoning, Reform, and the Limits of the Law of Democracy

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It is a moment of racial reckoning. It is not the first, it will not be the last, and it assures no restitution. But it is, nonetheless, a moment. As befits such moments, assorted conversations are occurring about the significance of race in American life and how to meaningfully improve Black lives. These conversations—debates might be the more accurate noun—have inspired calls for recompense and broad structural reforms.1 The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, advocates for reparations, police defunding, education reform, and a restructured political economy.2

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1 See, e.g., K. Sabeel Rahman, Fix America by Undoing Decades of Privatization, Atlantic (Oct. 11, 2020), https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/10/public-infrastructure-civil-rights/616671 [https://perma.cc/3BE7-XT3X] (“Any 21st-century civil-rights and economic agenda must involve a massive shift in our public investments. The human cost of the failure to invest in these crucial social goods falls disproportionately on Black and brown communities.”).

2 See Robin D. G. Kelley, What Does Black Lives Matter Want?, Bos. Rev. (Aug. 17, 2016), http://bostonreview.net/books-ideas/robin-d-g-kelley-movement-black-lives-vision [https://perma.cc/ WED2-PU7U] (describing the demands of the Movement for Black Lives coalition); Syreeta McFadden, Black Lives Matter Just Entered Its Next Phase, Atlantic (Sept. 3, 2020), https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/09/black-lives-matter-just-entered-its-next-phase/615952 [https://perma.cc/8SMK-WCEQ] (“[T]he Movement for Black Lives presented a robust 2020 platform, connecting the dots among issues of policing, reproductive justice, housing, climate change, immigration, and disabled and trans rights.”).