05 January 2007

The spectre of slavery apologies rises again

Apparently some in Virginia want to write into law a resolution apologizing for the commonwealth's role in the slave trade.

The joint resolution urges that Virginia "acknowledges and atones for its pivotal role in slavery" and work to reconcile "centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices."

I have a problem with apologies like this and here's why:

First of all, apologies are mostly BS. They are either given under coercion (written apologies in organizations) or are from people who are angry they got caught and are trying to do damage control. The minority are from people who are truly sorry.

Specifically with regards to slavery the problem is three-fold:

  1. The people who really need to apologize for slavery are centuries and decades dead.

  2. The people who need to apologize for other acts committed against blacks since slavery won't.

  3. And the rest are people who are ashamed of the actions of their ancestors.

While I appreciate the show of humility on the part of some legislators in Virginia, I find it difficult to overcome skepticism. While the apology might make some feel a bit better, there are a number of things it will not do:

  1. Unfulfilled promises made to blacks from over a century ago will remain broken.

  2. Blacks are going to continue to die at the hands of police with little or nothing done about it.

  3. Black on black crime is not going away or decreasing because Virginia has an apology on the books.

  4. Drug use or distribution in black communities won't be affected.

  5. The number of people on welfare is not going to go down because of the apology.

  6. It is not going to cause any of the "No child left behind" dollars to actually go to schools.

So you are basically going to take taxes from blacks to pay legislators to write a law on their behalf that really won't be of any benefit to them.

Do that if you want, but you need to understand that it is symbolic at best. It does not make up for anything. Lives that were lost due to lynchings and other murders remain lost. Sums owed will remain owed. Sums extorted will remain unpaid.

There is not going to be a new or magic solution to the problems which began with slavery and still affect us as blacks. We're going to have to continue to do all we can, work as hard as we can, continue to educate ourselves and others, and in three to five generations, hopefully the thinking in this world will have changed. I do not expect to see it in my lifetime. My vision is of the very long term.

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