“Yesterday Redeemed and Tomorrow Made More Beautiful”: Historical Injustice and Possible Collective Selves

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Abstract

This research examines the ways in which talk about reparations for historical injustice demonstrates individuals' ambitions for future collective identities. Interviews with White Tulsans (n = 25) illustrate how discursive temporal constructions justify support for or opposition to reparations for the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. It is argued that White Tulsans strategically employed these constructions to either transform or maintain collective identities. These findings bring a discursive approach to theories of collective continuity (Sani, Bowe, & Herrera, 2008) and possible selves (Cinnirella, 1998; Markus & Nurius, 1986; McAdams, 2006; Vignoles, 2008). From this perspective, reckoning with the past is as much about who we can be tomorrow as it is guilt for who we were yesterday.

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