Books To Move Us

Big Ideas book review

By Michael Omi Nov 10, 1999

Eric K. Yamamoto,
Interracial Justice:
Conflict and Reconciliation in Post-Civil Rights America
New York University Press, 1999. 330 pp.

Folks worry about deepening conflicts among communities of color and dream of forging and sustaining multiracial coalitions, but few have moved beyond simplistic notions of finding "common ground." Interracial Justice dramatically shifts our collective understanding of what is to be done. In it, law professor Eric Yamamoto offers a multidisciplinary, praxis-oriented approach to confronting and dealing with inequalities and grievances among groups of color.

Compelling case studies flesh out his concepts and methods. One is the fascinating account of the move in the 1990s among Asian American churches and the United Church of Christ in Hawai’i to formally apologize and extend multimillion dollar reparations to Native Hawaiians. At stake was the acknowledgment of Asian American complicity in the economic and cultural oppression of the Hawaiian people following the overthrow of the monarchy. Moving beyond the discourse of civil rights, Yamamoto argues that interracial justice is about the complex and messy ways we seek reconciliation between groups and reconstitute our notions of community. It asks that activists commit to work in their group’s self-interest and, simultaneously, to transcend it.