2019-20 Social Justice Debates Selected Scholars

William A. Darity Jr.
Roy L. Brooks

William Darity Jr. is the Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics & Director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University.

Roy L. Brooks is the Warren Distinguished Professor of Law and University Professor at the University of San Diego Law School and the author of “Atonement and Forgiveness: A New Model for Black Reparations.”


The United States Federal Government should provide direct compensation to African-Americans who descended from slaves as reparations for slavery.

 Topic Statement

For African Americans and the nation as a whole, the question of reparations is the most significant issue in the quest for racial equality since the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s. With race relations today severely challenged and getting worse, Black reparations can be an opportunity to turn things around — but only if we seize upon this moment with probity and intelligence.

                                                                                                                                                                              Professor Roy L. Brooks

In 2014, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates reignited national discussion over reparations for slavery and discrimination with his Atlantic article, The Case for Reparations. In his article, Coates explained the value and importance of public debates on the issue of reparations as follows:

Scholars have long discussed methods by which America might make reparations to those on whose labor and exclusion the country was built ... To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting America’s origins in a slavery economy is patriotism à la carte. Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating Black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap. Reparations would seek to close this chasm. But as surely as the creation of the wealth gap required the cooperation of every aspect of the society, bridging it will require the same. 

Perhaps after a serious discussion and debate—the kind that [the Bill for the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act] proposes—we may find that the country can never fully repay African Americans. But we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion—and that is perhaps what scares us. 

The 2019-20 Social Justice Debates responds to this call and others for debate and dialogue on reparations for slavery by inviting students, judges, stakeholders, activists, scholars and citizens to engage the scholarship of William A Darity Jr. and Roy L. Brooks on the question of whether the United States Federal Government should provide direct compensation to African-Americans who descended from slaves as reparations for slavery. Darity described the core objective of reparations in his 2019 testimony to Congress as follows:

Today, Black Americans constitute approximately 13 to 14 percent of the nation’s population, yet possess less than 3 percent of the nation’s wealth. A core objective of the reparations program must be to move the Black American share to at least 13 to 14 percent. Reparations designated specifically for Black American descendants of slavery must be enacted and implemented to achieve that aim, moving Black wealth, roughly, from less than $3 trillion to $13 to 14 trillion.

To promote discussions exploring the challenging policy questions raised by Darity and Brooks on the implementation of reparations for slavery, affirmatives are asked to defend a model of reparations with direct compensation by the United States Federal Government to African-Americans who descended from slaves as a central element of a policy intended to address this wealth gap consistent with Darity's and Brooks' scholarship. Negatives may win by either rebutting the affirmative arguments for implementing the affirmative's model of direct compensation reparations and/or by demonstrating the superiority of a competing model; i.e., demonstrating that it would be more desirable to implement solely the negative's model rather than the affirmative's model or both the affirmative's and negative's models.

For the purposes of exploring this research question, debaters should interpret the topic in a manner consistent with this topic statement and the reparations scholarship of Professors Darity and Brooks. This should include assuming that the United States Federal Government is the only potentially viable actor for providing comprehensive reparations for slavery to African Americans. It should also include affirmatives both defending the proposition that all or nearly all African Americans who descended from slaves should receive direct compensation including all or nearly all middle class and lower-upper class African Americans who descended from slaves, and being prepared to specify in cross examination whether they would propose to fund reparations in any manner other than normal means and to defend any such specification. The Affirmative's advocacy is not meant to be exclusive of reparations for other groups or other types of reparations. The GWU Social Justice debates is intended to serve as preparation for the Social Justice Debates National Championship at Morehouse College. Per the topic statement for that competition, on the Morehouse campus both the terms "African American" and "Black" are acceptable and appropriate terms for referring to people who have Black skin and are of African descent. The purpose of the 2019-20 Social Justice Debates is not to resolve which term is more appropriate.

U.S. National Championship

MLK Weekend, Sat-Sun, January 18-19, 2019

Morehouse College, Atlanta GA

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Invitation & Schedule

Online Championship

Nov 26 - Dec 7, 2019

Sponsored by Quash TV!

Click here to register & for rules and information

Fall Championship

Sat-Sun, November 23-24, 2019

The George Washington University, Washington DC

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“Best of Both Worlds” 

2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “King Classic” Debate Tournament Social Justice Debates Fall Opener

October 4-5, 2019

  Morehouse College, Atlanta GA

Judge Handbook

Invitation & Schedule