Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Acting White: US Congress Apologizes For Slavery

My son is thirteen. When he was four, he took a poke at his mother. His seventeen year old sister did the same when she was three. Each was a tense moment, but we got past it and everybody is fine now. No apology is required now that they are mature on the point of not hitting people, especially their mother.

For thousands of years people enslaved each other without batting an eyelid. In the 1700 and 1800's, humankind finally began questioning the morality of it. After a skirmish called the Civil War, America began grappling with its new position. In essence the country matured past it, like my kids hitting their mother. No apologies needed. Just keep on grappling.

That's how I feel about apologies for slavery. I'm past it. My enslaved ancestors are dead, and so are the people and system that enslaved them. I can't un-ring the slavery bell, nor would I want to. But symbolism don't feed the bull dog, so I'd rather Congress spend time on fixing real problems, rather than making hollow gestures.

Now some people will try to make the apology less hollow by attaching reparations and slavery-era disclosure requirements, to generate dollars to line the coffers of certain un-named so-called civil-rights leaders/groups we wish would retire, but this is adding insult to injury. It is extortion, and we should not allow it.

Personally, I don't need or want anyone to apologize to me, I was never a slave. If anything, I apologize daily to the memory of our ancestors for people wasting the day's opportunities earlier denied, including that which is unavailable to those ancestral kin in West Africa. I try to show respect by practicing community-mindedness, lawfulness, work-ethic, patriotism and positive spirit. The rest will take care of itself.

James C. Collier


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AAW said...

Personally, I'm tired of the apologies with no corresponding responsibility for what was done. I don't care for reparations but Gosh, how about what the Native Americans got?

Or create laws that truly create benefits for everybody regardless of race or class.

Also, just like I don't care for apologies after a prolonged period in real life. There should be a statute of limitations for these kinds of apologies.

UncleTomRuckusInGoodWhiteWorld said...

The apology was not just for Slavery but for the 100 years after slavery when blacks (not only in the south) were oppressed with the help of local, state, and federal government. You act as if those blacks aren't alive.

Those blacks would be many of my aunts and uncles. What about yours?

This is not an apology from the white man to the black man. This is an apology from the U.S. government to black citizens for being treated as property or animals when they have sacrificed and died for this nation.

That is a worry thing. You don't think so? Where you upset when the U.S. government apologized to Japanese Americans or used tax payers money to build a Holocaust Museaum in our national capital when this event did not happen on U.S. soil? Or is this outrage selective?

James C. Collier said...

DH, the people apologizing think they have done something, and they haven't. The recipients think they have received something, and they haven't. The world is more ruthless than yesterday and distractions are a luxury. Reparations will be sought, but will not come. If they did, they would be wasted, since we do not know what to do with them. Any good feeling is fleeting against millions lost. The energy used to beg an apology is better used unlock a door and motivate entry.

UncleTomRuckusInGoodWhiteWorld said...

So under what circumstances should anyone apologize for anything?

"The energy used to beg an apology is better used unlock a door and motivate entry." I think there is more energy for a multipronged approach.

I don't care about reparations and I really don't care about an apology. I was born in the mid-1970's; the government never did anything to me, but I'm not so self-centered to assume it has no meaning to people like my grandfather.

While he was fighting for his country (earning multiple medals i.e. a Purple Heart and actually was blown up trying to defuse a mine in a Japanese camp in Okinawa, resulting in a metal (later plastic hip)) his brother was in Louisiana getting lynched for being with a woman that was "assumed to be white" (this is the theory, no one knows for sure) who was really a light skinned creole girl from a few towns over. Apparently some local whites didn't know that, when he came back to the town that night...well he didn't make it home. His car was found in a ditch and he was hanging from a tree a few yards in the bayou. No one told my grandfather till he came home for fear he would get himself killed.

When he came home he went to the sheriff, the white Sheriff, (a arm of the government) told him to "let it go" and that "it was a horrible accident".

Then my grandfather could not even collect on his G.I. benefits through the local VA apparatus (part of the government), they would not even let blacks enter the building.

He couldn't take it anymore, he said he felt like he would lose his mind after coming back to America...because he was in France for a minute (where white folks treated him like he was not cattle although there was some discrimination there it was mild) and then sent to Okinawa (because blacks were said to be able to stand the tropical climate better) and the Japanese were also fairly kind. He came back to his own nation, the one he was crippled defending "freedom" for and didn't have any and neither did his family.

He basically "fled" to Ohio (where he did get a G.I. loan) after his mother told him he should leave because if he stayed he would likely get into trouble (meaning mouth off to some white authorities or just white folks in general, or not step off the sidewalk when a white woman walked down the street).

My grandfather, as far as I've known, would not allow a white man in his home, unless it was own business.

If you don't think this type of thing effected him mentally and that did not have an effect on his family and any small token of recognition by the government of what he went through does not have any meaning than I don't know where you lost your humanity but get out the spotlight and the magnifying class. Thing is my grandfather is not alone and reality he handled it better than a lot of people he knew.

In spite of this my grandfather raised 14 kids, all graduated from high school, 4 went to college, all the others (but one black sheep) work every day and have never been in any legal trouble. He was the first black in his town in Eastern Ohio to integrate a white neighborhood and owned 2 businesses in the town, but this ate at him all his life. He was "never right". He didn't need anyone's money or reparations. Maybe he needed recognition of his humanity.

Sometimes justice comes for some in recognition that something actually happened to them and someone says "I'm sorry". For some folks that is all they need.

From your point of view...its worthless for anyone to apologize if there are not cash benefits meted out in a constructive way to benefit said individual. WHAT?!? That's not what my mamma taught me.

Are you an African or Carribean immigrant? Do you have any close family who grew up in the deep south? For you to judge the value or benefit to someone who lived in that time based on what you think is important from your life experience is a tad bit arrogant.

Deocliciano Okssipin Vieira, aka Ochyming said...

@dragon horse:

That was REALLY ...
THX for sharing.

Yes, apologies makes the transgressor MORE human in CASE IT [this case - USA administration(S)] means IT.

For the VICTIMS [direct and indirect] is a GOOD start!

President Anthony Taurus said...

"My enslaved ancestors are dead, and so are the people and system that enslaved them."

When did the system die?