NY Times: Apologize For Slavery

NY Times writer Timothy Egan offers a compelling argument for a national apology for slavery on the occasion of Juneteenth

Apologize for Slavery

A WEEK of absurdity around a confused racial con artist, and a massacre in a black church brings us to this: Today is the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, when the last of the American slaves were told they were free. Now, to put it to good use, at a time when a post-racial era seems very much out of reach.

The first black man to live in the White House, long hesitant about doing anything bold on the color divide, could make one of the most simple and dramatic moves of his presidency: apologize for the land of the free being, at one time, the largest slaveholding nation on earth.

The Confederate flag that still flies on the grounds of the Statehouse in South Carolina, cradle of the Civil War, is a reminder that the hatred behind the proclaimed right to own another human being has never left our shores.

BTW, Phillip Klein makes a compelling case for why Conservatives should hate the Confederate flag.

An apology would not kill that hatred, but it would ripple, positively, in ways that may be felt for years.

The Big Question is, would this actually solve anything?

Conservatives would caw — they always do — and say, get over it, don’t play the race card. Liberals would complain that a simple apology did not go far enough, unless it entailed reparations for the descendants of slaves. But words of contrition — a formal acknowledgment of a grievous wrong by a great nation — have a power all their own.

Another Big Question: would it hurt to offer a national apology?

Countries, religions and corporations sometimes do awful things in their names. It doesn’t diminish them to note their failures, their injustices, their crimes against humanity. It elevates them.

Maybe Democrats should apologize for all they did to keep Blacks in shackles, how they instituted Jim Crow and segregation policies and laws, opposed the Civil Rights laws, then decided to simply treat Blacks as an interest group, followed by policies that have left them poor and living in ghettos. OK, a bit off subject.

It’s harder to be contrite than to conquer. Obama had nothing to do with slavery. Most Americans, descendants of immigrants shunned in their homelands, have very little connection to the slaveholders of the American South. So why apologize? Because we own this past. As such, we have to condemn it.

Would this be worthwhile, or simply a waste of words? The majority of citizens had nothing to do with slavery. Few of our descendents were slave owners, and a good chunk of our descendents weren’t even in the U.S. during the time of slavery. Would a national apology help? Would it be accepted? Would it allow the U.S. to move on? Or, would it demand more? Do Blacks, at least those who can directly trace their ancestry to a slave in the U.S., want an apology, and would they accept it?

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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