April 24, 2024

Apologies for Slavery

USA Today says that Virginia lawmakers are going on the record as having “profound regret” over the state’s slavery-tinged history. And Polimom, a Houston-area blogger, says:

The truth is that all of those caveats and concerns have nothing whatsoever to do with why there should be an apology. I think the collective American consciousness is sorry… but like Polimom, we’re individually afraid to say so. People want to deflect, or are afraid that an apology will somehow imply personal responsibility, and all this obfuscation and avoidance is making Americans — and particularly white Americans — look petty. Mean-spirited.

There are people who feel that focusing on this country’s historical ills provides a crutch for African Americans — a shelter behind which they can hide their own responsibility for the problems faced by many communities.

Maybe…. but whether black Americans are (or are not) using the country’s history as an excuse doesn’t mean there’s no worth in an apology.

I almost can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I agree with her. And if that sounds barely more than equivocal, well, I guess that’s about right. Logically there is no reason for anyone to apologize for something that happened well over a century ago. And logically an apology shouldn’t make anyone feel any better about their life. Nothing will have changed for either the speaker or the recipient.

Or will it? Most white folks want to get along with black folks and most of us acknowledge that American slavery was one of those Really Bad Ideas that our country would have been better off never having had.

If it will put an end to this part of the racial divide then I’m for it. If it will remove the race card from the game of politics then we should all be for it.

So I say this: I’m white and I’m sorry that we brought Africans here against their will, held them in slavery for generations, and violated virtually every notion of civil rights that we now acknowledge.

If only that would put an end to things. The social inequities still exist, don’t they? Nothing but hard work is going to erase them. We need to leave the past behind and move on.

It’s time to accept that government-sponsored welfare programs and forced integration have not helped erase the cultural differences America faces. Black people are more than capable of making a better place for themselves in America. People of all ethnicities have come here and made good. The opportunities are there for the taking. It’s not always easy but it can be done.

For all Americans the future is uncertain. War, terror, and enemies abound, as they always seem to. One thing, though, is clear: we have more in common with each other than we do with the radicals we’re fighting overseas. This is true whether you’re black or white.

Let’s all leave the Jesse Jacksons, the Louis Farrakhans, the John Birches, and the Earl Ray Joneses of the world behind and look ahead. The past should be respected but it should not make us prisoners. We need to make peace and move on.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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