Slavery: House of Representatives apologizes, Senate silent, Presidential candidates without comment
**This may be long, but it's important, please read it all**
Chalk up another victory for Senator Obama and African Americans, and America in general. It’s taken some time but another historical event has taken place, and again it has received about as much fanfare as Janet Jackson’s latest album.
When I started to first write my blogs I wrote about an issue that has plagued every aspect of American life and politics since before the creation of America. That issue is Slavery. I have long been a proponent of an apology from the Government and I am a staunch supporter of Reparations.
“Many still do not wish to discuss slavery in America. I feel it is the one national taboo that though while addressed on a cursory level many times it has never been dealt with. It is so ingrained in people of this nation that neither Blacks, Whites or anyone else wishes to discuss it on a national level, and even in smaller more personal groups the subject is shunned and dismissed rather than spoken about. This amounts to mass denial on a national, and due to the interconnected manner in which the world operates even global, level in my opinion. Obviously to me this means that something must be wrong, since it is so deeply entrenched in the American psyche not to discuss it.”
“If the average slave worked only 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, 360 days a year for 4 decades of life that’s 158,880 hours of work per slave. If we assume that there were 3 million slaves from 1619 to 1865 (which is a low-ball estimate) then that is 476,640,000,000 hours of work done. Those are BILLIONS of hours. This does not even touch the Jim Crow era. Assuming a pay of just .05 cents an hour in 1865 money (no adjustment for actual worth in money today) that means $23,832,000,000. If I adjust by taking an increase of just 10% for each year for 55 years that’s a 9150% increase to $2,180,628,000,000. That’s TRILLIONS of dollars, adjusted just 55 years at 10%. There’s still another 87 years to go and we are adjusting from .05 cents. If anyone feels that more than TRILLIONS of dollars of work did not change America, they are stupid in my opinion.”
Of course there are those that disagreed with my views like
“Let me address the stupidity of the statements made by Speaker Richardson, and others including Mr. Frank Hargrove of Virginia. The argument goes that Americans today did nothing, and have no connection, involved with Slavery. This is the most obvious and persistent fallicy since perhaps “the world is flat” or “the universe circles the earth.””
“I feel insulted, and Michael Medved is the reason for it. I would like to blow this off as a rant by a guilt-ridden ignorant man, but given the prominence and success of Medved in general that does not apply. Thus I will just have to accept that he is stupid. [Stupid is defined as wanting in understanding or as I like to say ignorance does not know, stupid is knowing and not caring.] Given that, I think it’s time that a better answer to his Six inconvenient truths about the U.S. and slavery is addressed with some logic.”
Yet even institutions that exist today have been more aware and honest than the U.S. Government when it comes to the issue of slavery, apologies and reparations.
“A memo on this was released by then-Chairman William Harrison and then-President James Dimon,“We apologize to the American public, and particularly to African-Americans, for the role that Citizens Bank and Canal Bank played during that period," said the company on its website. "Although we cannot change the past, we are committed to learning from and emerging stronger because of it.”
In addition to the apology, JP Morgan created a $5 million scholarship for African Americans in Louisiana.”
But finally yesterday House Resolution 194 was passed, a mere 5 months after it was introduced to the House of Representatives. House Resolution 194 is
“Apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African-Americans.
Whereas millions of Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and the 13 American colonies from 1619 through 1865;
Whereas slavery in America resembled no other form of involuntary servitude known in history, as Africans were captured and sold at auction like inanimate objects or animals;
…Whereas after emancipation from 246 years of slavery , African-Americans soon saw the fleeting political, social, and economic gains they made during Reconstruction eviscerated by virulent racism, lynchings, disenfranchisement, Black Codes, and racial segregation laws that imposed a rigid system of officially sanctioned racial segregation in virtually all areas of life;
Whereas the system of de jure racial segregation known as `Jim Crow,' which arose in certain parts of the Nation following the Civil War to create separate and unequal societies for whites and African-Americans, was a direct result of the racism against persons of African descent engendered by slavery ;
… Whereas on July 8, 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush acknowledged slavery's continuing legacy in American life and the need to confront that legacy when he stated that slavery `was . . . one of the greatest crimes of history . . . The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times. But however long the journey, our destiny is set: liberty and justice for all.';
Whereas President Bill Clinton also acknowledged the deep-seated problems caused by the continuing legacy of racism against African-Americans that began with slavery when he initiated a national dialogue about race;
… Whereas it is important for this country, which legally recognized slavery through its Constitution and its laws, to make a formal apology for slavery and for its successor, Jim Crow, so that it can move forward and seek reconciliation, justice, and harmony for all of its citizens…”
Only at least 389 years late.
Still it’s not a law, or an official Act. The Senate did not join in this Resolution. And the vote was by voice, so no official record exists of who voted what.
But it is a step in the right direction. It is an admission by part of the Government. It is a realization that wounds don’t heal by ignoring them. It is part of the recognition of wrong that started in 1988
“It [Congress] apologized to Japanese-Americans in 1988 for holding them in camps during World War II and gave each survivor $20,000. In 1993, Congress apologized to native Hawaiians for the overthrow of their kingdom a century earlier. In 2005, the Senate apologized for not enacting anti-lynching legislation.”
Yet a question has to be asked. Why has the Senate not acted on this resolution? Why did the Representatives not stand up and have their votes recorded for history? Why have both current Presidential candidates shunned and avoided the subject actively?
“…Senator John McCain said last October that he would support a federal apology for slavery, although some critics note that he failed to support the bill when it was discussed in February of this year.
For his part, Senator Barack Obama has said he has little interest in an official government apology for slavery or reparations for descendants of slaves, according to the Associated Press.”
Yet the Senate did pass a Resolution that apologized to Native American Indians this year. This also got little fanfare from the major media.
The fact is this is a victory for every Black American, and the ancestors that literally built the foundations of this nation on their backs and with their blood. So where is the media? CNN recently felt the need to talk about Black In America, the nation was stunned/rejoicing at the presumptive nomination of the first Black Presidential nominee, and yet a full open sincere apology from the Government still eludes a nation that refuses to speak about our past honestly. Unless you believe the highly romanticized and historically inaccurate depiction of President Abraham Lincoln and the causes of the Civil War – hint: it had nothing to do with slavery.
Perhaps the delusions and excuses of people like Medved and Roger Clegg are the reason
“The success of the Obama candidacy underscores the irrelevance of an apology" because it shows "enormous progress" in race relations, says Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative group that describes itself as opposed to racial preferences. "Haven't we already moved beyond it?"
The answer is, in my opinion at least, NO we haven’t. If we had there would not be cases in courts like Rodney King or Megan Williams, there would be no deaths like Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo, there would be no outrages like the one enacted by the police in Philadelphia. There would be no way that Michael Richards would have acted in the manner that he did, nor that the media would have railroaded Wesley Snipes as they did. There would be no need for comedians like Stephen Colbert to point out the obvious. And there would be no way that politicians like Frank Hargrove or Tancredo could could say what they have said.
Some things have changed, and that is great. But if we fall into the fallacy that the success of a handful of people is the same as equality for all people, the nation will never fully prosper. In fact the nation will continue to rot, as I believe it has since before I was born.
And again I ask where is the major media in discussing all of this? If this is not groundbreaking and important enough, the media has gone far beyond ‘yellow journalism’ in my mind. Perhaps they need to watch Bid Em In and get a clue.
The House of Representatives has taken a step, the Senate must follow that step, and the President must acknowledge and reiterate these actions. And in proving the sincerity and completing the rite of acknowledgement America must make amends. When a crime is committed and the criminal admits their guilt we accept it and give them leniency - but they are still punished – that is the law. America committed a crime against humanity, and is now just starting to admit its guilt. It cannot be repentant without its penance, and that is reparations. It may not be a law, but it is acting humanely and lives up to the highest standards we expect from each other as human beings and our Government.