Racial Transitional Justice in the United States

Yuvraj Joshi, Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia


For years, the United States government has endorsed transitional justice approaches abroad while ignoring the need for transitional justice at home. Recently, racial justice uprisings have shifted U.S.-based discussions of transitional justice, from gazing outward toward the international community to attending to the legacies of slavery, segregation, and white supremacy at home. This chapter demonstrates that the centuries-long oppression of Black Americans is precisely the kind of massive human rights violation that necessitates a systematic transitional justice response. Using historical, legal, and comparative analyses, it reveals that the United States has employed its own versions of transitional justice mechanisms and debates without recognizing them as such. The author argues that Americans should not uncritically adopt transitional approaches from elsewhere, but that they should reckon with systemic racism, recognize that the United States is still ‘developing’ in this respect, and consider how transitional justice could be implemented in the American context.