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Abstract

National healing for the persistent wounds of racism, America’s original sin, can be advanced through a national apology, reparations and forgiveness. The frequent practice of apologies and reparations around the world in the past generation provide precedent for such measures. Christianity’s teaching of reconciliation and accompanying notions of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and atonement provide a strong moral basis for these measures and resonate with the rationales through which the United States’s greatest champions of civil rights and equality have fought against racism and slavery. Because racism and slavery were supported with the sanction of the state, in the name of the collective body, measures of repair may now be performed by the state, in the name of the collective body. Questions of who pays, who receives, and what form reparations take are important ones and can be answered adequately. Through collective apology, reparations, and forgiveness, the United States would enact and renew its national covenant, acting in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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