In a context of political conflict, the practice of vengeance, the paying back of harm in exchange for harm suffered, is obviously an ethical problem. The practice of forgiveness is equally though differently problematic when applied to political conflict despite the fact that it is a moral ideal. A third approach, the practice of moral accountability, is more ethically justifiable, yet it remains unclear what it is conceptually and what it would involve practically in a particular context. In this essay, the author develops a conceptual framework for moral accountability, grounded in a broader understanding of justice as responsibility to conflictual and unchosen relationships. Drawing on contemporary sources in Christian ethics, as well as insights from anti-racism community organizing, the author argues that practices of moral accountability restructure the pattern of these relationships, such that perpetrators and guilty bystanders are more likely to assume, rather than avoid, responsibility for causing structured racial harm.
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