Sorry for Slavery? Ask the Man Who Owned One

Slaves and their masters are all dead, so stop apologizing.

The Washington Post reports:

The Senate unanimously passed a resolution yesterday apologizing for slavery, making way for a joint congressional resolution and the latest attempt by the federal government to take responsibility for 2 1/2 centuries of slavery.

Now this is an interesting development.  One might suppose that 600,000 dead Civil War soldiers would go some way towards redeeming America's "original sin."  Was slavery wrong?  Of course it was, and we paid a heavy, heavy price to set it right.

This apology, we are told, isn't about setting things right; it's about taking responsibility.  There's grounds for confusion on this point.

The U.S. Senate is famously America's most exclusive old-age home, but surely there aren't any Senators so old that they actually owned slaves themselves, are there?  Admittedly, the decrepit Senator Robert Byrd (D, WV), as an ex-KKK official, might have wanted to, but even he does not predate the 13th Amendment and its ban on slavery and/or involuntary servitude.

"I am not sorry for my role in slavery - I never owned a slave, not even one."

Yet he, and the other Senators, wish to apologize for slavery on your behalf.  Do they represent you in this?  Are you sorry for your vile actions while you personally collaborated in this evil crime?

I'm not!

Responsibility for What?

Those of us who have children can recall countless times where Child A hit Child B, and as parents, we enforced an apology.  "Tell your little brother you're sorry!"  "What was that?  I can't hear you!"  Obviously, these are somewhat grudging expressions of contrition, not exactly heartfelt, but such apologies make parents feel better.

Then there are times when Child A protests, "I did not hit him!  How can I say 'sorry' when I didn't do it?"  Even a young child has more wisdom than our leaders: you can't apologize for something you did not do.

I am not sorry for owning slaves - I never did.

I am not sorry for my role in slavery - I never owned a slave, not even one.

I am sorry that slavery took place.  I'm also sorry about the Rape of Nanking, the Holocaust, the sacking of Rome, the Jonestown massacre, the burning of the Library of Alexandria, and Cain's murder of his brother Abel.  I'm not about to apologize for any of those, though, as I didn't do them.

Mr. Obama has spent much of his presidency apologizing all 'round the world to anyone who will lend him an ear.

Supposedly, he is taking responsibility for all the evil things America is thought to have done.  In actuality, he is picking off old scabs and reopening old wounds by reminding the world of all the crimes our land is said to have committed.

Everyone makes mistakes and every nation contains evil people.  Sometimes generally good people do evil things.  When that happens, it's appropriate to make amends, administering punishment and restitution wherever possible.

After all those involved are dead and gone, though, it's not possible to deliver justice; rehashing a musty conflict revives it for a new generation.

The True Goal

Which, of course, is exactly the goal here, as the Post reveals.  First, there's the usual leftist political goal of driving conservatism in general and Republicans in particular from the public arena entirely:

Carol M. Swain, a professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University who had pushed for the Bush administration to issue an apology, called the Democratic-controlled Senate's resolution "meaningless" since the party and federal government are led by a black president and black voters are closely aligned with the Democratic party.

"The Republican Party needed to do it," Swain said. "It would have shed that racist scab on the party."

What racist scab, precisely, would that be?  It was a Republican who issued the Emancipation Proclamation and it was a Democratic Congress and President who stripped underprivileged black D.C. students of their ability to attend decent schools.  There is no historical reflection found here; it's simply a modern and all-too-current slander for naked partisan political gain.

And financial gain too.

Randall Robinson, author of "The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks," said he sees the Senate's apology as a "confession" that should lead to a next step of reparations. "Much is owed, and it is very quantifiable," he said. "It is owed as one would owe for any labor that one has not paid for, and until steps are taken in that direction we haven't accomplished anything."

It could well be argued that the freed slaves should have received compensation.  Actually, for a time during Reconstruction, the federal government attempted something of that sort by providing ex-slaves with farm equipment and education.  Unfortunately, that system broke down and the less oppressive but still evil Jim Crow regime came into effect.

Thankfully, both slavery and Jim Crow have been consigned to the dustbin of history where they belong and where they ought to stay.  No American alive today has ever been a slave.

On what basis would one award compensation?  Ancestry?  We know white people whose ancestors were brought here as indentured servants before the Revolutionary War.  Their ancestors were undeniably subject to involuntary servitude, should they be compensated?

If we're going to compensate people whose ancestors suffered, what about such white folks?  And what about the many, many black people - like Barack Obama himself - who have no ancestors that were ever enslaved by Americans?  How will we figure out who gets what, subpoena the Mormon Church's extensive genealogical records?

More importantly, how does this sort of racial gerrymandering and demagoguery assist our nation to become "Out Of Many, One"?  "Divide and Conquer" is more like it.

We should be aware of our history so we don't repeat the blunders of the past, but that's not the same thing as being sorry for everything bad that your ancestors or fellow-citizens of the past ever did to anyone else.  Unless our leaders want the national costume to be sackcloth and ashes, it's long past time for historical "apologies" to cease.

Instead, our leaders should concentrate on addressing our economic problems so we don't wind up wearing sackcloth because it's all we can afford.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments
Well done. Words mean things. To be sorry is to regret one's ACTIONS. Hello, idiot senators. Please give me a list of anyone who has committed the ACTION of enslavement?
June 22, 2009 8:22 AM
Shall we further make reparations to the Cherokee for forcing them out of their lands on the trail of tears.

And the Mormons for repeatedly forcing them out of lands that they developed quite nicely.

Shall the African nations pay the blacks in America as well for capturing and selling them? Shall Europeans, especially Italians, pay reparations to those descended from the Caucus? Shall Egypt also pay, since Egypt bought up all the men and Italians all the women purchased in the Caucus, usually sold by their parents.

If you can find a nation that hasn't owned slaves I would be impressed. Slavery, right or wrong, has been a part of every culture through history.

I wish to be judged by my actions not by those of my father, or more accurately in this case someone else's father. My family didn't move to America until after the Civil War. I owe no black person anything. I will not pay for the wrongs of someone else, nor will I apologize for something I never did.
June 22, 2009 11:17 AM
"I will not pay for the wrongs of someone else"

Would that that were really true. Unfortunately, you have and do pay for others' wrongs all the time.

Your tax dollars pay for prisons, though you've committed no crime yourself.

Your tax dollars pay to bailout irresponsible mortgage companies, banks and auto makers.

Your tax dollars pay for medical care for immigrants who illegally entered the country.

Unless you don't pay taxes, you are *always* paying for other people's wrongs.

I'm all for reparations. At least, with reparations, Americans would be paying for a REAL wrong for once that the majority of the nation condoned. Set an amount, find the *real* descendants of slavery and pay them off once and for all. Then, no more talk of affirmative action, welfare or EEO.
June 22, 2009 11:42 AM
I do not pay for the wrongs of others when we put them in prison, I am paying to protect myself from them.

I don't think you'll find much support for the bail outs.

And I am certain that I do not want to pay for any one else's medical bills. Legal or not, I wish to pay for only my own.

As for finding 'real' descendants of slaves, I hate to tell you this, but I'm will to bet that every person alive today is the descendant of slaves. Some of us just got over it.
June 22, 2009 12:06 PM
Save me from my corporate masters
June 22, 2009 8:33 PM
@I am a slave:
You are only a slave today if you allow yourself to be.

Yes I know there are some actual slaves left in the world and that is not what I'm referring to.
June 23, 2009 10:41 PM
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