Saturday, March 24, 2007

The United States should apologize for slavery.

As should every country involved in the slave trade.

Well, there are still slaves in some countries, not like the slaves in the US in the bad old days, but I think every country involved in the slave trade that has ended and involved enslaving Africans and Native Americans for the rich, should apologize.

I think a form of slavery that continues today in the US involves illegal immigrants working in sweatshops or farms. Every cent they earn goes to rent, the coyote, food, "Two rolls of toilet paper in one week?", and then a little bit to their family or children or legal status. If they complain, they can be deported or arrested.

But, I'm thinking about the slavery that "ended" with the Civil War.

Yes, former slaves were free, but free to do what? In the south, their formerly rich owners were bitter and started a gentleman's club, you may have heard of it? The bitterness led to countless deaths, 'seperate-but-equal' everything (the Pentagon has twice as many bathrooms needed for its offical capacity because it was built before the law changed. Flush them all at once, and the government will be higgledy-piggledy. But you didn't hear it from me.), and general suckiness for most of the former slaves.

Sharecropping was a way for the rich to enslave poor white and black people - no discrimination there!

My point?

Every state that had slaves should issue an apology, along with the country as a whole. Just a measure next February for black history month (eyeroll) saying, "Hey. Slavery sucked and we're sorry. And even though it's been officially over for 140 years, we still have a way to go to true equality. This apology is a step forward."

I don't see why there's a resistance to an apology.

Actually, I do see it from my mom and sister. "I didn't own slaves, nobody in my family did, why should I apologize?" They probably didn't on my mom's side. I think her mother's family emigrated to America in the late 1800s or early 1900s. They're Czech, and one of my grandmother's relatives, had, in her diary, a handout so old and brittle, but so scary - it was a prayer in praise of Hitler.

As for my dad's side, it's possible on his father's side, but not his mother's. She's only a generation or two from Germany.

So my mom and dad did not own slaves and knew no one who did. Your mom and dad didn't either. Your mom and dad weren't slaves, your grandparents probably weren't, but I do know there are some people who were born at the turn of the last century that knew people who'd been/owned slaves.

But abolishing slavery didn't abolish racism. There was 100 years of institutionalized racism after the war. A middle school that's in the county, but close to Memphis was a high school in my mom's day, the black one. And I think they didn't desegregate until a few years after the Brown ruling. Just pictures of the high school in Little Rock. The governor of Arkansas came to the school and said no. And out of the 9 students that eventually got in, only one or two ended the year. The rest quit, most likely due to harassment and threats.

An apology is a gesture. It won't be completely worthless, though. It will acknowledge that the United States made a mistake (in the past) and we're working to correct it.

Opponents say it's an empty gesture, we know slavery happened, get over it already. But we can't get over it - there are still racist stumbling blocks in place (but like sharecropping, they've spread to other races, including whites, but that's class warfare if you mention that poverty is hard to escape), though not government backed anymore.

I told my mom that she wasn't hurt by Jim Crow laws, and neither were her parents. But my black classmate, her black coworker, their parents and grandparents were. It takes generations to achieve equality or come close.

An apology for slavery will not be an empty gesture, but a sign that we know we made a mistake and we're working to correct it.

Maybe some politicians are scared of it because they don't want to admit it happened, or that it has any relevance today. But it does, because it didn't end 140 years ago, or even 40. Racism still exists, and slavery is pretty obvious cause.

It won't hurt anyone to say I'm sorry. How can it?

By leading to reparations?

The best reparation I can think of would be money for education from pre-school to college, from the federal level, so a school in a poor district (black or white) can have the same things as a school in a richer one, and so we'll all have the opportunity to go to school after high school, because a high school diploma can't get you what it used to, unless you join the military.

But I'm not a politician, just a blogger who got 3 hours of sleep and spent the night looking at lefty cartoons and a long post on Pandagon about a Virginia state senator's opposition to an official apology, and the 100+ comments that followed. This one guy had this idea that all the liberals at the site were saying black people should do nothing until someone gives them something, when he was the only one saying it, not endorsing it, but saying that's what everyone else said, when they didn't.

10 comments:

blair said...

The United States acually has a pretty good record on slavery, which was a global institution practiced by every country in the world at the time the United States' founding. Slavery lasted only two lifetimes in the United States. Men who knew George Washington lived to see the end of slavery in 1865. (Robert E. Lee's wife was Washington's grandaughter.)

About 10 millions slaves were transported from Africa to the Americans, but most went to Latin Ameria. Only about 500,000 came to the United States. Thousands of white slaves--not to be confused with indentured servants--were also transported from Europe to the Americas.

Today, African Americans enjoy a much higher standard of living than Africans whose ancestors were not transported to the United States. Therefore, they are beneficiaries rather than victims of slavery.

Free blacks as well as whites owned slaves. About six percent of whites and about 1.6 percent of free blacks owned slaves.

Kaitlyn said...

Robert E Lee's wife was Washington's grandaughter?

Cool.

I know a small portion of the population owned slaves, but I still think the government should issue an apology.

They won't, because slavery (of whites and blacks and native americans by wealthy people of any color) in the past still has ties to poverty today, and such an apology would acknowledge that there are poor people in this country, and we have a not-so-good safety net.

Racism here is tied to poverty, I think, and the apology shouldn't be for enslaving only black people, but for enslaving anyone at all.

All the other nations that particpated in it should issue official apologies - France, Spain, England - the three main colonial powers.

And, finally, did you not read my last sentence? I wrote that with 3 hours of sleep, 2 pain pills, cold medicine, anthisitamines, and the grogginess that accompanies a cold.

So I'm just going to review my newest Mad now and leave the politics for the non-sick, non-drugged people. (Like me, in the future.)

And I have zero personal experience with racism, so I am full of shit, as usual.

Kaitlyn said...

As with every time I comment on a hot issue (like at the message board) and someone says, "I disagree", I feel so stupid, like I committed some grave crime, and look, Dixie's a pretty dog? I'd usually leave the site for a few days (or one) until the heat died down.

I feel my opinions aren't valid because I'm young and stupid.

But I know in my head that I should say what I think, so I can learn and change my views or not as I see fit.

Dixie is a very pretty dog, by the way.

Kaitlyn said...

I could totally delete your comment blair, and be all, "Look, no one disagrees me, I am a genius, give me money." (Or sour skittles.)

But I won't.

And if you come back to see if I've challenged you or agreed with you or deleted you, can you tell me how you found my little nonsense corner?

(It doesn't get much traffic, even with pictures of Dixie.)

blair said...

Everyone writes about slavery in the past tense, but slavery is very much still in existence. Europeans participated, along with with other races, in slavery when it was a global institutions, but Europeans were the first to abolish savery, and European nations, primarily Great Britian, uses their armies and navies to force an end to slavery around the world. However, now that Europeans have withdrawn from their colonies, slavery is making a strong comeback in Asia and Africa. Each year, about 200,000 to 800,000 people, many of them children, are traffiked in Central Africa alone. This far exceeds the annual traffic of slaves from Africa to the Americas at the height of the Atlantic slave trade.

Kaitlyn said...

I'm aware of that, but I still think nations that particpated in the slave trade that has officially finished should apolgize for being part of it.

blair said...

I think demands for apologies and reparations for slavery is a poor tactic for people interested in racial equality. Having apoligized, white America is likely to say there is no longer any requirement for affirmative action or other social programs. Some of the reparations recommendations I've seen recommend as low as $16,000 per household. That might be a small downpayment on a home, but it wouldn't pay the monthly mortgage payments. It would pay for, maybe two years, at college. Most likely, it would be spent on new cars that would fall apart in a few years. Reparations would have to be in the hundreds of thousand of dollars per household to make any real difference, and even then much of it would vanish within a generation. Lots of white Americans would favor paying raparations, but once the debt is paid, they would demand an end to race-based preferences in hiring and college admissions.

If raparations are paid, it should come in the form of a trust fund from which African Americans could draw to make down payments on homes or pay for college. To ensure the fund last generations, it might issue loans that could be paid back with no interest. That way the fund would dwindle more slowly, and benfit many generations. However, those who oppose rapartions would contend these payments are already being made through a variety of social welfare programs

KM said...

Hey Kaitlyn. Found you by checkin on *my* site visitors, lol. Looks like someone was interested in sharecropping, which you also mentioned in your post.
Apologies, I think, do have some symbolic value. But they should be viewed as the start of something new as opposed to the end of something old. Apologies between people are only meaningful when they mark change, and certain countries aren't especially good at following through (climate change anybody?). I think person-to-person handouts/"repayments" would be a terrible underestimation of the scope of slavery's impact on this side of the Atlantic. It was an institution, and countries fed off it. The only way to do ameliorate a sustained institutional problem is to develop a sustained institutioanl solution, driven and supported by popular commitment and conviction and economic incentive, just as much as the problem was supported by the same.
Just my opinion tho.
Peace...

Kaitlyn said...

KM -I visited your site?

Of course I did.

*goes off to look at KM's site*

I agree with everything you said, and in that vein, I belive that Affirmative Action is the closest we'll get.

We're America, we were never wrong, except while a Democrat was in charge, or so I hear...

I've been to your site?

You have two links that say *london*! I have one that says Memphis, not Egypt.

And I don't recognize yours, but now I'll be sure to visit it - unless you mean a non-blogger site.

It's not you - I am often confused.

KM said...

No, sweetie, lol. Someone else visited my house, and yours came up along with mine in their search... That's all I meant. (Who said anything about Egypt?)

Take it easy, sis.