Obama Appeals Court Nominee — Goodwin Liu – on Reparations for Slavery

Verum Serum

Flying a bit under the radar with all the focus on healthcare reform, late last month the President nominated Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ed Whelan over at NRO is a definitive – and far superior – source for opposition research on Liu’s nomination, but suffice it to say that Liu’s views on the malleability of the Constitution, social and racial justice, and the role of the federal government in education, to name just a few issues, place him quite a bit left of center. Also, while Liu is only 39 years old and has very limited experience practicing law, he is viewed by many liberals as a strong candidate for a SCOTUS nomination down the road. So he is attracting a fair amount of attention.

With Professor Liu’s Senate hearing scheduled for this Wednesday (3/24), I thought I would look around and see if I could find anything which would shed some further light on his core beliefs which may affect his suitability for a lifetime judicial appointment. Lo and behold I came across a panel Liu participated on in 2008, discussing a PBS documentary entitled “Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North“. I have not seen this film, but apparently it is the saga of a New England woman (the filmmaker) who had discovered that her ancestors were the largest slave-traders in U.S. history. In the clip I have extracted below, Liu is responding to a comment by fellow panelist James. A Joseph, the former Ambassador to South Africa, who had asserted that ”racial reconciliation” will ultimately only be possible if reparations are part of the discussion. Here’s Liu comment in response:

Partial Transcript:

So what I would do is I think I would draw a distinction between a concept of guilt, which locates accountability in a sort of limited set of wrongdoers, and on the other hand a concept of responsibility. Which I think is a more broad suggestion that all of us – whatever our lineage, whatever our ancestry, whatever our complicity – still have a moral duty to…make things right. And that’s a moral duty that’s incumbent on everybody who inherits this nation regardless of whatever the history is.

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