While there are some who deny it exists, most courts accept the notion that parental alienation is a problem and that it occurs when a child carries views of the other parent that aren’t justified by reality.  In Litigating Parental Alienation, author Ashish Joshi explains the research and context for parental alienation (PA) and provides tips, including a five-factor model, for litigating the issue.

In her foreword to the book, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary McCormack notes that parental alienation may be unintentional.  Whether intentional or unintentional, PA causes harm to a child that can be serious and long-lasting.  The chief justice also states that alienating behaviors “harm children and parents alike.  And they make family law judges’ work exceptionally difficult to get right.  When practitioners know more about the substance of parental alienation, they put themselves in the best position to advocate for their clients and put the courts in the best position to reach the right results.” (p. xiii)

PA manifests when a child allies himself or herself strongly with the preferred parent and rejects a relationship with the other parent without legitimate justification. In Chapter 4, the author explains the “five-factor model” that infers that parental alienation has occurred.  The five factors are: the child resists a relationship with the parent; the child had a prior positive relationship with the rejected parent; there is a lack of abuse by the rejected parent; there are alienating behaviors by the preferred parent; the child exhibits alienation behaviors. (pp 83-104)  Using caselaw examples, Joshi fleshes out how the factors are investigated and used in litigation.

Expert testimony can support the existence of parental alienation, and the Joshi analyzes both Frye and Daubert tests for admissibility of evidence.  The author also explains the role of the guardian ad litem and lists best practices for GALs who represent children in PA cases. While courts discern whether or not PA has occurred, they also aim to correct distortions and try to reunify the alienated child with the rejected parent. (p. 50)

Throughout the book, Joshi examines court cases from around the country, including some from Minnesota.  He also introduces the Duluth power and control wheel in his discussion of PA and domestic violence.  He notes that actual child abuse can differ from PA; however, PA is a form of family violence.

The book is available from the Ramsey County Law Library.  The library also has the 2018 title Parental Alienation and Abuse Allegationspublished by the National Business Institute.

Ashish S Joshi, Litigating Parental Alienation: Evaluating and Presenting an Effective Case in Court. Chicago, Illinois : ABA, American Bar Association, Family Law Section, 2021.


As we acknowledge Black History Month, we celebrate a 19th Century White man who was an impressive voice for racial equality.  Described as the “Great Dissenter,” Justice John Marshall Harlan offered the lone, dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson (16 S.Ct. 1138, 1896), the Supreme Court case that approved separate but equal as a legal precedent and strengthened Jim Crow’s grip on American society. 

Author Peter S. Canellos provides an enlightening and well-researched book about Justice John Marshall Harlan.  Entitled The Great Dissenter: The Story of John Marshall Harlan, America’s Judicial Hero, this inspiring biography explains how and why Harlan became an advocate for color-blind justice. The focal point of the book is Harlan’s dissent in Plessy.  The author details how Harlan stood passionately for equality even though his esteemed colleagues on the Supreme Court favored the entrenched, biased views of Jim Crow America.

Canellos describes Harlan’s early years, his political ventures, and his life as a justice.  Harlan came from a family steeped in education and law.  His father, James Harlan, was a lawyer who had the best law library in the state of Kentucky.  He proudly named his son after Chief Justice John Marshall.  However, more impactful than the name he was given was the relationship Harlan had with his adopted brother Robert Harlan, a bi-racial man who some thought to be the actual son of James Harlan. While Robert was a successful businessman, John Harlan witnessed a society that forced Robert and his family to flee to Britain to escape the racial injustices leading up to the Civil War. 

Canellos describes Kentucky’s role in the Civil War, detailing the “armed neutrality” of the state against both Confederate and Union troops.  Harlan supported Lincoln and fought with Sherman to defend Kentucky against Confederate attack.  Harlan left the military to become Kentucky’s attorney general.

Appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Rutherford B. Hayes, Justice Harlan grappled with cases that failed to enhance the equality that was promised by the post-war amendments.  Justice Harlan surmised that the evolving legal system was “construed as to defeat the ends the people desired to accomplish, which they attempted to accomplish, and which they supposed they had accomplished by changes in fundamental law.” (p. 28)

Harlan’s uncompromising stand against inequality is depicted by his famous dissent in Plessy.  Canellos describes the case and the surrounding events in a chapter entitled “The Humblest and Most Powerful.”  The case involved the Louisiana “Separate Car Act,” and the defendant, Homer Plessy, carefully plotted the actions that led to his arrest for sitting in the whites-only part of the train.  When the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, all but one of the justices reasoned that those laws requiring racial separation were within Louisiana’s police power. In a heroic departure from his fellow justices, Harlan stood for Black rights and eloquently wrote in his dissent that:

“The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage, and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty. But in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved. It is therefore to be regretted that this high tribunal, the final expositor of the fundamental law of the land, has reached the conclusion that it is competent for a state to regulate the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely upon the basis of race.”

Justice Harlan served on the Supreme Court until his death in 1911. Well after his death, Justice Harlan’s legacy was influential in Brown v. Board of Education  which excised “separate but equal” from the legal landscape.  Thurgood Marshall, who argued the 1954 case, regarded Harlan’s dissent as the “bible” that he relied upon for attacking segregation. (p. 494) Harlan’s inspired defense of our color-blind constitution failed to inspire those in power at the end of the 19th century.  However, the notion of a color-blind constitution is a simple but powerful message for all Americans, and his actions voicing that message are a compelling example today.

The book is available in the Ramsey County Law Library.

Peter S. Canellos, The Great Dissenter: The Story of John Marshall Harlan, America’s Judicial Hero. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021.


The Hill We Climb

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman (book cover)

We would like to end 2021 on an uplifting note.  The Hill We Climb is a poem composed and read by Amanda Gorman at the inauguration of President Biden on January 20, 2021.  As she stood before the audience, she was a shining sun in a bright golden-yellow coat – a sun amongst the more soberly dressed crowd (except for Bernie Sanders’ mittens).  And then she read her poem aloud.

Reading her poem in print is no less electrifying than hearing the spoken words.  The words look like prose until you hear the words in your head as you read to yourself, and you find the hidden couplets in thought and rhyme. 

It may be trite to say that a poem is poetic, but how else can one describe this verse, which catches both the eyes and ears of the listener?

We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
And the norms and notions of what “just is”
Isn’t always justice.

The poem encourages us to keep going, keep trying, because the mistakes of the past do not define us.  Instead, we can choose to begin a new chapter for our nation.  She told the New York Times, that she wants her words to, “envision a way in which the county can still come together and can still heal.”  Her final message is that if we want a better nation, then we must earn it.  

The new dawn blooms as we free it,
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it,
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb, an Inaugural Poem for the Country.  New York, NY: Viking, 2021


Taking on the “BIG”

Amy Klobuchar, Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2021.

Senator Amy Klobuchar has written a definitive, modern-day treatise on antitrust law.  Not only does Klobuchar describe riveting instances of monopolistic abuse, but she also provides a scholarly and well-documented history of antitrust action “(and inaction)” in the courts and Congress.  As the head of the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, Klobuchar is vitally interested in the topic and has proposed legislation directed at big tech and big business combinations (the “BIG”).  By reining in BIG corporate power, Klobuchar seeks to strengthen competition, the Sherman Act, and, ultimately, workers’ wages.

In her introduction, Klobuchar describes a medical event that arose in a Minnesota children’s hospital regarding a drug used to treat newborn infants with heart defects.  The cost of the drug had increased twenty times its original cost, creating an exorbitant burden for both families and hospitals.  A cause for the spike in price, Klobuchar recounts, was the ability of the drug manufacturer to buy up its competition and create a monopoly on a critical heart valve drug for newborns.  According to Klobuchar, “our current antitrust laws, at least as applied by the federal courts, were unable to check them.”  In a subsequent statement, Klobuchar explains: “That’s why I have written this book.” (p. 9)

While a compelling overview about antitrust may seem a challenging and daunting endeavor, Klobuchar doesn’t shrink from the task and produces a 100-year history on the topic that offers a legal overview with specific cases arising from corporate America.  She cites the Standard Oil Trust case as well as examples from Minnesota such as James J. Hill, the American railroad titan who consolidated multiple railroads across the country.  Starting in the late 1800s, Congress enacted legislation to create competition, such as the Sherman Act (which prohibits agreements unreasonably restraining competition and monopolization), the Clayton Act (which prohibits all types of acquisitions that may substantially lessen competition), the Robinson-Patman Act (which prohibits certain discriminations in pricing and services), and the Federal Trade Commission Act (which prohibits unfair methods of competition).  These statutes are enforced by the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general, and private parties injured by antitrust violations.

Yet, according to Klobuchar, historic attempts to control anti-competition consolidation have met with federal court exemptions, political reframing of the need for antitrust regulation, and the growth of current corporate giants such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.  In her final two chapters, she defines a detailed action plan to reinvigorate antitrust policy.  A major strategy involves creation of legislation that updates the nation’s antitrust laws.  However, she concludes that antitrust policy impacts everyone and is “a topic that can no longer be relegated to the realm of law schools and antitrust agencies; more citizens must start voicing their concerns about BIG to their elected officials so that those officials take it much more seriously.” (p. 354) Klobuchar’s book is a great first step in gaining a decisive perspective on the harms of monopolies and consolidated corporate power.

The law library has additional practitioner treatises on antitrust law.  They include Callmann on Unfair Competition, Trademark and Monopolies, Kintner’s Federal Antitrust Law, and Antitrust Basics. Titles also available on Westlaw include Antitrust Adviser, Corporate Counsel’s Antitrust Deskbook, Corporate Counsel’s Guide to Unfair Competition, Health Care & Antitrust Law, and many other titles.


Intimate Lies and the Law

Okay, big surprise
People love you and tell you lies
Bricks can fall out of clear blue skies
— “Now You Know” from Merrily We Roll Along by Stephen Sondheim

In her recent book, author and law professor Jill Hasday examines the law available when people in intimate relationships deceive each other, and she finds it wanting.  She has meticulously documented hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of intimate deception and researched the kinds of laws implemented to try to make the deceived party whole.  Unfortunately, it didn’t always work out well for the deceived party.

What are intimate relationships?  It isn’t just jilted romantic partners and ugly divorces.  Intimate relationships occur between people in different kinds of relationships – married couples as well as parents and their children.  Intimate deceptions range from minor lies (smokers claiming to be non-smokers on dating sites), to lies and deception made in fear (wife in abusive relationship hiding her pregnancy because she thinks her husband would hurt the baby), or made to avoid harm or embarrassment (mother who told her children that they were Native American, not Mexican because of perceived discrimination against Latin immigrants).  However, she does take time to address deception that was done purposefully to hurt the other person in the intimate relationship. 

Hasday points out that one of the difficult parts of putting intimate deception into a legal context is that this kind of deception is considered to be common and ordinary in relationships between people and thus out of scope for judicial satisfaction.  One commentator describes deception as occurring since the first caveman invited the first cavewoman back to his cave to view his etchings.   In this vein, the author describes a case where a married man’s ex-girlfriend falsely told him that she was pregnant with his child, and consequently his wife killed herself when she believed the lie to be true[1].  The man sued his ex for negligent misrepresentation as well as intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.  Even in these horrible circumstances, the court found that angry behavior is not unusual between intimate partners, so even the egregious behavior in this case was not outrageous enough to warrant judicial redress.  Professor Hasday concludes that one of the roadblocks for the victim is that when the court sees that the parties are intimately involved, the case will be treated differently than if the parties were not so involved.

However, what keeps this book from becoming a depressing morass describing people being horrible to each other is the last portion of her book, where Professor Hasday offers suggestions on how to hold intimate deceivers accountable for their harmful lies when it is appropriate to do so.  As with many solutions to complicated problems, the change isn’t easy and involves all levels of legislation, regulation, and adjudication.  However, the changes she suggests are reasonable and achievable.  The author asserts, “The law of intimate deception is too important and needs too much reform to remain hidden in plain sight.”

Professor Hasday will discuss her book at an upcoming CLE sponsored by the Minnesota State Bar Association.  This session, titled How the Law Handles Deception in Intimate Relationships, is scheduled for January 13, 2022 from noon to 1:00.  1.0 Standard CLE credit, event code TBD. 

Jill Hasday, Intimate Lies and the Law.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2021.

[1] Starr v. Woolf, 2005 W.L. 1532369 (Cal. Ct. App. June 30, 2005).


Rosa Brooks, Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City. New York: Penguin Press, 2021.

While Tangled Up in Blue is not an academic work, author Rosa Brooks explains that her use of participant observation is a valid research methodology that provides a close-up perspective on urban policing.  Brooks learned this methodology firsthand. She’s the daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich of Nickel and Dimed fame.  While Brooks dedicates the book to her political activist mother, she also cites the mother-daughter conflicts that accompanied Brooks’ transition from Georgetown law professor to part-time reserve officer with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).  Written after the George Floyd killing, Brooks’ book gives a personalized account of her own messy, complicated experiences that come from patrolling the very poorest sections of D.C.  As for the books’ title, “Tangled Up in Blue” comes from a Bob Dylan song released in 1975.

Brooks graduated from the police academy as a reserve officer in 2016.  She highlights this experience by stating that “The chief lesson learned at the academy was this:  Anyone can kill you at any time.” (p.79) She further describes the academy as a place where students had a great deal and even obsessive exposure to dangerous scenarios through instructional videos and lectures as well as physical training in defensive tactics. Brooks, who reports that the academy taught the thousands of ways that cops could be hurt or killed, leaves the reader with the impression that police training creates a cadre of hypersensitized, new officers who are hypervigilant about letting their guard down. 

In the section of the book titled “The Street,” Brooks describes the wide variety of situations she’s encountered as a new reserve patrol officer in the 7th District MPD.  This impoverished area of the city breeds domestic abuse and family disturbances, assaults, missing children, and mental and medical health related issues.  Brooks offers her personal stories of life as a patrol officer and the individuals she’s connected with—her text gives a firsthand view of their “unvarnished lives.”  She sees into their humanity as “angry people, weeping people, frightened and hurt people.”  (p.255) It’s in this section of the book that the reader gets the most insight into the world of policing in D.C.

In the chapter “Baked Into the System,” Brooks addresses the criminal justice system and the racial disparities that stem from poverty as well as race.  The author states that “this is why racism seems like a nonissue to many street cops; it’s baked so deeply into the system that it’s invisible.” (p. 272)  When she attempts to offer an academic and sociological perspective to her police colleagues, she initiates a clash of two worlds when they react to her insights with disinterest or derision. 

As for Brooks’ earlier description of life in the academy and its obsession with survival, she later struggles with this concept after months of actively working the streets of D.C.  She confides, in contrast to her expectations from her training, that she found policing not to be that violent.  Brooks concludes with a question: “What if instead of telling officers they have a right to go home safe, police training focused instead on reminding officers that members of the public have a right to go home safe?” (p 319)

With regard to policing, Rosa Brooks offers an inside view that is palpable and informative.  Her book represents a well-rounded effort at immersive journalism.  The book is available for loan from the Ramsey County Law Library.


When the Laws Fall Silent

Eric K. Yamamoto, In the Shadow of Korematsu: Democratic Liberties and National Security.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

In his book, In the Shadow of Korematsu, Professor Yamamoto analyzes the legacy of Korematsu v. United States[i].  His critique is sobering. 

Korematsu’s holding is troublesome if one believes that Constitutional rights are sacrosanct:  The United State Supreme Court held that a U.S. citizen’s Constitutional rights can be abridged in times of war if it is deemed to be necessary to preserve national security.  Executive Order 9066 authorized the collection and relocation of Japanese American citizens even though no one had committed any crime.  The government pushed the narrative that Japanese Americans had an inherent loyalty to Japan, a loyalty stronger than their citizenship to the U.S., and that loyalty would pose a danger to everyone living on the west coast.  That argument convinced the Court that national security was their prime concern, not racism, and successfully persuaded the Court that keeping the nation safe trumped the rights of citizens. 

In retrospect, legal scholars, historians, law professors, and judges all acknowledge that in a blatant act of racism, the government exaggerated the dangers posed by citizens with Japanese ancestry to support the necessity of Executive Order 9066.  Justice Jackson in his dissent pointed out, “But here is an attempt to make an otherwise innocent act a crime merely because this prisoner is the son of parents as to whom he had no choice, and belongs to a race from which there is no way to resign.[ii]”  Justice Murphy, in a separate dissent, stated plainly, “Such exclusion goes over ‘the very brink of constitutional power,’ and falls into the ugly abyss of racism.[iii]” 

The unfortunate legacy of Korematsu is that many have taken this case to mean that courts are likely to abridge civil rights protections in times of war.  Professor Yamamoto points out throughout the book that many people since then have tried using fear as motivation to curtail the rights of minority groups and those with limited power to fight back.  But this misapplication of the holding by the government and special interest groups is only one of Professor Yamamoto’s conclusions.

His second conclusion is that, when at war, the judiciary is loath to challenge actions taken by the other branches of government, and that this is one area where the courts intentionally do not assert their independence.  Rather, it is the opposite:  in times of war, the courts will defer to the expertise of the President and the Legislature.  And he is not the only scholar to make this assertion.  In 2014 Justice Antonin Scalia was asked if the government might relocate Muslims like they did Japanese Americans.  He said,

Korematsu was wrong … But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing won’t happen again … There was panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot.  It was wrong, but I would not be surprised if it happened again in time of war.[iv]

In response to the question, what would the Court do today if faced with a similar situation, Justice Scalia answered, “inter arma enim silent legis,” or translated, “in times of war, the laws fall silent.”  

Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, known for applying economic analysis in deciding the law, posits that in a cost-benefit analysis, the courts would likely lean towards supporting public safety over an individual’s rights.  Professor Owen Fiss’s analysis of recent court cases, specifically Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project[v], supports the author’s conclusion that war, and for this case, specifically the war on terror, is the cause of judicial deference to the other branches of government. 

To be fair, not all judges and not all government officials are this dismissive of our Constitutional rights.  Many judges have taken pains to distinguish the circumstances that surrounded Korematsu from current cases, and they use a stricter standard of scrutiny to make sure that discrimination is not the result of government overreach.  Perhaps this kind of careful examination is the first step in ensuring that Korematsu’s legacy of social injustice is not repeated.

[i] Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944).

[ii] Korematsu, at 243.

[iii] Korematsu, at 233.

[iv] Debra C. Weiss, Scalia: Korematsu was Wrong, but “You’re Kidding Yourself” if You Think It Won’t Happen Again,” ABA J. Feb 4, 2014, as cited in Eric K. Yamamoto, In the Shadow of Korematsu: Democratic Liberties and National Security.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2018, p. 5.

[v] Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1 (2010).


Who’s Packing?

Jeff Shesol, Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court. New York, N.Y. : W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.

This 2010 book attracts interest for its coverage of a subject that arose during last year’s presidential campaign.  On the issue of court packing, author Jeff Shesol describes political and legal events of the 1930s related to the New Deal and the Supreme Court.  The author explains difficult topics in detail, specifically the viability of the New Deal, the economic order during the depression, and Roosevelt’s attempts to pack the court to sway its rulings in favor of his programs.  As the story unfolds, the parallels to current political and legal events are apparent, and not solely on the issue of court packing.

The author explains the 1930s legal background and historical framework.  While the Constitution is silent on the size of the Supreme Court, the number can be changed by Congress.  In fact, the number of justices has changed over the past centuries: in 1789 there were six justices; in 1801 there were five; in 1837 there were nine; and in 1863 it rose to ten to secure the Court’s support for Lincoln’s war policies.  The shifting number of justices reflected the political power of the congressional and the executive branches.  In 1866, there were nine justices on the court, and that number has remained ever since. 

The depression of the 1930s fostered Roosevelt’s New Deal, and with it, new political initiatives that had major ramifications for the nation, especially as they impacted laissez-faire, federal control (and the emerging welfare state), and the interplay of congressional decisions and court action.  The ensuing battle with the Supreme Court, which Roosevelt feared would strike down various components of the New Deal, also engendered questions about the rigidity or flexibility of the constitutional landscape.  As Shesol reveals, in 1937 Roosevelt devised a strategy to save his progressive proposals—by increasing the number of justices on the court from nine to fifteen and thereby securing a more liberal majority of justices who would favor his policies.  This proposal became increasingly disdainful among many individuals including those Roosevelt considered his supporters.  The court packing bill was ultimately eliminated by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The many parallels to current events include the following:

National EmergencyThe Great DepressionThe Global Pandemic
Federal Legislative InitiativeThe New DealBuild Back Better
State Legislative Initiatives   The Mortgage MoratoriumMortgage/Eviction Moratorium
Supreme Court Split DecisionsChief Justice in fluxChief Justice in flux

The mortgage moratorium of the thirties had ties to Minnesota.  A major court case originated when John H. Blaisdell was sued by the Home Building Association regarding a new Minnesota law that was passed as an emergency measure to place a moratorium on mortgage payments and foreclosures.  The Loan Association argued that the law violated the contract and due process clauses of the Constitution.  The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled that the Minnesota legislature was justified in enacting the moratorium law as an emergency measure under the police power of the state (see Home Building and Loan Ass’n. v. Blaisdell, 290 U.S., 1934).  Shesol notes that this was the first of the New Deal cases that came before the Supreme Court (p. 65).

As far as who might pack the court in the thirties despite a more evenly divided Supreme Court, Roosevelt directly strategized to pack the court to ensure that his New Deal policies would advance.  His efforts met with great opposition.  In comparison, today’s Court is more conservative than its 1930s counterpart and is one of the reasons President Biden received many questions about court packing during his presidential campaign.  While President Biden has skirted the issue about court packing, it’s likely to re-emerge with the Court’s conservative decision-making.  For an understanding of court packing and The New Deal, Shesol gives a detailed and well-documented perspective about the individuals and the processes involved.


Life Beyond the Mountains

Khoua Thao, Beyond the Mountains. Coppell, TX: Publisher not identified, 2021.

The beginning of Khoua Thao’s memoir, Beyond the Mountains, is a familiar scene reminiscent of Vietnam and more recently, Afghanistan:  Desperate people crowding the airport in Long Cheng, Laos, struggling to board US military planes to evacuate to safety.  Thao and his family were among the many Hmong of Laos who weren’t on the planes.  However, his father found a way to get his family, consisting of his wife and five young children out of Laos into Thailand, and then eventually to the United States. 

Most of the book is a recollection of his childhood life before his family left the familiarity of life in the Laotian mountains.  In all the small villages and enclaves where he lived, Thao had good memories of his life, despite living in what we modern Americans would consider to be very poor conditions.  His father was a valued elder of the community, and neighbors worked collectively to survive and live, which they did with joy and dignity.

Many of these stories describe events that show how resourceful and well-respected Thao’s father was.  With very little, he managed to keep his family safe from animal as well as human predators.  Thao also writes with clear detail how he and his family appreciated everything they had, from the small scoop of rice and chicken leg or fried grubs that he would have for lunch, to the mementos that his family tried to take with them as they fled their mountain village (two blankets from a family friend), as they secretly tried to escape Laos by pretending to be traveling to visit family in Viengchan.  The blankets did not make it with them to the United States; they were confiscated by the military at a roadblock.

This detail does much to prepare the reader for the culture shock that the author and his family experienced once they were able to successfully emigrate from the mountains of Laos to the stark, modern streets of Selma, Alabama.  This section is the shortest in the book, but the reader can really understand the amazement and gratitude that the family felt as they were introduced to indoor plumbing, soft beds, and a refrigerator that kept food cool and fresh.  Khoua Thao’s memoir is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to know more about the Hmong people and their refugee experience. 


The Case for Reparations in America

William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020.

This book is about reparations — and so much more.  The authors Darity and Mullen explain how the 1800s were a time when Americans both perpetrated racial harm and gained from the harm, whether or not they inflicted it.  The authors offer two criteria for those who would qualify for reparations: first, U.S. citizens would have to establish that they had at least one ancestor who was enslaved after the formation of the American republic. In addition,

they would have to prove that they self-identified as “black,” “Negro,” Afro-American,” or “African American” at least twelve years before the enactment of the reparations program or the establishment of a congressional or presidential commission “to study and develop reparations for African Americans”—whichever comes first. 

Page 258

Historically, various attempts to redress grievances were made and included “40 acres and a mule”, a promise made to blacks during the Civil War but which the federal government failed to provide. Granting land, education, free housing, and paid employment were also considered as compensation to blacks.  Unfortunately, most efforts were met by overt, white opposition.  In the South, black schools and churches were burned.  Moreover, President Andrew Johnson’s hostility toward blacks became a key factor of obstruction and sowed the seeds for the Jim Crow period that followed Reconstruction.

While the authors focus on past efforts to offer reparations, the text overwhelmingly details abuses to blacks during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods of American history.  The authors include rarely described events such as those that took place in the North during the Civil War when anti-black riots occurred in New York City.  The riots were caused by prominent white supremacist and anti-draft participants.  At the same time, black troops increasingly became vital to the Union cause, and a total of 180,000 black men had served the Union army by the end of the war.

In a comparatively short chapter on how to make reparations work, the authors call upon the U.S. Congress to authorize payments from the U.S. Government. They cite H.R. 40, a resolution originally introduced in 1989 by the late Congressman John Conyers and now sponsored by Representative Sheila Jackson of Texas.  House Resolution 40 is entitled “Legislation to Study and Develop Slavery Reparations Proposals.”  The authors also describe various methods by economists to construct estimates (totaling in the trillions) to achieve an appropriate remedy.  As a political strategy to advance reparations, the authors state that colleges and universities should sponsor a national effort to compensate for harms.

According to the authors, their book offers contrasting information about the black experience in America—one that counters a sanitized and inaccurate version of American history.  In their narrative, Darity and Mullen make a comprehensive case for black reparations in America.  Academic and scholarly, this notable book includes detailed notes and references that comprise about one third of the content.  This well-documented work is a pivotal contribution to black history and the path “From here to Equality.”