Resolved: The United States Federal Government ought to pay reparations to African Americans.

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Resolved: The United States Federal Government ought to pay reparations to African Americans.

Welcome back to a new debate season! Let’s jump right into it.


United States Federal Government – This is easy enough; it’s the federal government of the United States of America. Don’t get bogged down in the specifics of which branch, which law, etc… The goal here is not to argue the capacity to implement a reparations program unless you’re arguing that feasibility determines governmental obligation. Which, if you are, you should probably rethink since it’s a weak position.

Reparations – Reparations are monetary awards to people who have personally, or whose ancestors have been wronged or targeted. They are awarded as compensation for previous wrongs done to a population.

African Americans – This is pretty simple, but also pretty complicated. This term, in all its stupid political correctness, offers a lot of room for Kritiks. Technically, an African American is not the same as a black or colored person. It is possible, if you want, to point this out and argue a kritik position which criticizes the resolution’s verbiage. But, I hate kritiks. So, for your purposes, this should be synonymous with colored people who were discriminated against, or whose families were discriminated against.

Case Positions


1. Distributive Justice – The principle behind reparations is that they should make amends to those who have been wronged. If these reparations are provided to African Americans, then they should necessarily be provided to Muslim Americans, Japanese Americans, and Native Americans for the same reason. This is definitely not feasible, and therefore makes for a poor distributive justice policy.

2. Opportunity Cost – Really? Reparations? Are you joking? How about we spend the money fixing our justice system so MLK’s dream can be realized? That seems like a better place to put all that cash.


1. Retributive Justice – When a party under a social contract commits a crime, they ought to be punished for that crime. The government is no exception. They have committed moral crimes against African Americans, and therefore, they should pay damages to those people. It is the proper course of retributive justice.

2. Utilitarianism – Reparations need not be in the form of cash payments. If done properly, they could help alleviate poverty conditions in many urban African American communities. This would contribute to the alleviation of a number of social ills faced by these communities and may be the most utilitarian approach to take.

I hope this helps get you started. Good luck!



4 responses to “Resolved: The United States Federal Government ought to pay reparations to African Americans.

  1. Could you please elaborate on this particular argument for me please?
    Deontology vs Consequentialism
    somebody told me about it, but I don’t know how to incorporate it into this topic.

    • Well, deontology vs. consequentialism isn’t an argument. Both of these are categories of ethical theories. Consequentialist theories hold that the consequences of an action determine whether or not it’s moral, while deontological theories argue that the consequences don’t matter, and other factors determine the morality of an action.

      For this topic, like any topic, you can take either a consequentialist or deontological perspective.

      I hope that helps!

    • Hi Ricky,

      The question I would ask is why it matters. As I mention in the post, who cares if it’s a monetary fund or something else? Either the government should pay reparations, or it should not. The argument is really the same regardless of whether it’s in the form of money or not.

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