Sardonic Sistah Says

Observations… Ruminations… Ponderances… & Rants from Another Perspective

Is It Too Late to Apologize?

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According to next week the House wants to take up resolution H.Res.194 that will apologize “for the enslavement and racial segregation of African-Americans.”

The resolution, which was introduced at the beginning of the 110th Congress, makes no mention of reparations, but it does state that black Americans “continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow — long after both systems were formally abolished ….”

The resolution also acknowledges that an apology “cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs committed can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help Americans confront the ghosts of their past.” ( 26Jul2008)

A similar bill was introduced to the House over 10 years ago.  “The Apology for Slavery Resolution of 2000,” is a concurrent bill whose first submission was made before Congress June 2000 by Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio).

“When you hurt somebody, it’s not easy to say I’m sorry,” Hall said. “But without an apology there can be no healing.  “As a country we participated in slavery. We tore families apart.  Our Constitution didn’t even count them as people; we counted them as property. In fact, this Capitol, I understand, was partially built by slaves.”

During his time in office President Clinton made a formal apology for the Tuskeegee Experiment but stopped short of going back in history to say the government was sorry for slavery. 

Many who oppose a formal apology by the government are afraid that it will open up the door to paying descendent of slaves reparations.  Many white Americans today question why they should repent for the sins of someone else, whether they are descendents or not.

In 2002 the country of Benin issued a formal apology to descendents of slaves in the Americas for it’s role in the slave trade.  Benin is located on the West African coast and was a hub of activity for the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Profits from the sale of human slaves encouraged many people to raid other villages and sell them to European slave traders.

Ambassador Cyrille Oguin made the state when he toured the U.S. in 2003.  Speaking on behalf of the president and people of Benin he made a formal apology in hopes of making it a first step in reconnecting with “brothers and sisters” who were hurt by the slave trade.

“Today, no one wants to take responsibility,” Oguin said. “It’s so easy to say white man did it to us, but we share in the responsibility.” (Advocate, 28Jun03)

The resolution was introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee.  Cohen is a white democrat whose constituents are mostly African Americans in the district of Memphis.  Although the resolution makes no mention of reparation is does address the lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow laws on African Americans today.

“African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow”, Cohen said.  “Long after both systems were formally abolished–through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty, the frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity…”

In his speech Cohen also mentioned Bush’s trip to Senegal’s Ile de Goree where President Bush 43 referred to the slave trade as forced migration.  The Island of Goree was at one time a trading post, where along with human slaves peddlers sold beeswax, hides and grain.

While on his trip President Bush spoke of American slavery, which he referred to as “forced migration”.

“Human beings delivered, sorted, weighed, branded with marks of commercial enterprises and loaded as cargo on a voyage without return,” Mr. Bush said. “One of the largest migrations in history was also one of the greatest crimes of history.”


Written by rentec

26 July, 2008 at 5:32 pm

One Response

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  1. Why apologize? Are there any ~150 year-old former slave owners around? Besides, it was LEGAL!


    29 July, 2008 at 3:46 am

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