So We Finally Got An Apology for Slavery–and then they took it back

Maxine WatersI haven’t time right now to write a whole post about it and since I got an email about this Essence article from a fellow reader, I’ve decided to post the Essence magazine article entitled “Is Sorry Enough? Black Lawmakers Respond to Senate’s Apology for Slavery” written by Cynthia Gordy and let you all discuss it amongst yourselves.  I’m sure you all already know how I feel about this underhanded apology and especially about reparations.  So here ya go:

With a unanimous vote last week, the United States Senate passed a resolution formally apologizing for the enslavement and segregations of African-Americans. The strongly-worded resolution, which comes 144 years after the Civil War and 45 years after the Civil Rights Act, describes “the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws,” and states that Congress “apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors.” It now moves to the House.

Speaking from the Senate floor about the apology, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who first introduced the resolution, remarked that former presidents have acknowledged slavery. While traveling in Uganda, President Bill Clinton expressed regret for America’s role in the slave trade, and President George W. Bush called it “one of the great crimes of history” when he visited Goree Island off the coast of Senegal. “Yet, this Congress has never offered a formal apology for slavery and Jim Crow, and it’s long past due,” Harkin said. “A national apology by the representative body of the people is a necessary collective response to a past collective injustice.”

The resolution ends, though, with a disclaimer saying that it does not support or authorize any claim against the United States. In other words: We’re sorry. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to get anything for it. It’s a stipulation that has concerned some African-American lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

“I think that was unnecessary as part of the Senate resolution,” says Congressman William Lacy Clay, who says he otherwise welcomes the gesture. “But I understand the politics of it. The way they were able to get it voted through the Senate was to have that disclaimer so that anyone, with guilt on their conscience, could not object.”

Congresswoman Maxine Waters holds a similar outlook. “There is some discomfort with the disclaimer provision in the Senate resolution,” she says, but adds that she’s confident that it does not rule out pending reparations efforts, such as Congressman John Conyers’s proposal for a commission to study reparation proposals for African-Americans. “In short, this is an apology bill and not a reparations bill.” 

There is, however, a historic precedent to reparations paid by the U.S. government. The 1988 Congressional apology to Japanese-Americans for internment during World War II, for example, was followed by about $1.6 billion in reparations that were given to victims of internment and their heirs. The government has also paid reparations to some of descendants of Native Americans. So, is an apology to African-Americans without accountability enough?

“An apology is a good start, but the research into reparations needs to go forward,” said Congressman Clay, who also supports the creation of a Congressional research commission on reparations for African-Americans. “Apparently it’s an issue that most in Congress do not want to deal with, and that most in this country do not want to deal with. But part of healing this country, and closing the divisions to become truly one America, depends on taking an honest look at our sometimes painful history.”

Do you believe in reparations?  If so what type of reparations?  A blank check? Or some other kind of break on various social services?  Do you believe reparations makes any cogent sense in 2009 and the rest of us are barking up the wrong tree?  Just lemme know how you feel.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

6 thoughts on “So We Finally Got An Apology for Slavery–and then they took it back

  1. I wasnt completely for reparations until recently. I mean, other ethnic groups in the US got some, so why shouldnt we? But what really chinched it was a book I read about the first reparations movement. I forget the title right now, but it was led by a Black woman and all she wanted was to get older former slaves a pension so they wouldnt be destitute in their old age. The things the US government put her through makes me want all African Americans to get whats coming to them! Reparations-wise, that is.

    But, hey, thats just me.


  2. Just give it to me in my weight in gold,for all the one’s that were bought and sold . Like livestock on an auction block. They did’nt come here like the pilgrims. They did’nt land on Plymouth Rock.

  3. Reparations – Not something you can just ask for but – –

    Reparations is a class action suit brought by African Americans based on the Constitution of the United States which they have failed to comply with, but has withheld our rights from us through racism, jobs, housing, equal opportunities, equal financial access, cruelty, defamation on our people and culture through the news media, no fair or equal access through the courts and judicial system. CLASS ACTION – every African American in the United States – sue it for our rights in America all the way to the Supreme Courts.

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