Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Well, it seems Congress has finally decided this country needs to apologize for an incredibly corrupt, brutal, and cruel chapter in American history--that of slavery, and also the Jim Crow-era laws which segregated black people, and deliberately discriminated against them.
How do make peace with a people from whom you stole family members away into chains, starvation, thirst, and torture? For those who survived, generations of them worked for no money or reward, and their families were broken apart and sold off, just like livestock. And the selling? They were "auctioned" off while being put through indignities like standing naked in front of hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people(mostly slave-owners, and their families) while being prodded and pulled, their teeth checked, etc...They all eventually faced beatings, and the women faced horrific repeated rapes, children were bought so they could be molested, and lynchings of black men were common. All this is well-documented.
To those of you who say well, my family immigrated here later, we never had anything to do with that, I say:
This country offered us all a lot of opportunity for business, creativity, and wealth--earned, and inherited, precisely because the slaveowners' and this country(government) made progress and lots of dollars on the backs of these African-Americans...
An apology is a start, and it is incalculable what is actually owed to the African-Americans today, who still suffer the effects of this awful legacy. But I think some sort of reparations should be made available. No amount of money in the world could ever make up for what happened to these people, but a tidy sum ought to be made available to any black family who descended from slavery, money to put towards an education that they were denied not for years, but for centuries; money to build ownership in land which they were not permitted to own; money for their children's children's children, for these children won't be auctioned and sold off.
These children deserve a chance, and they deserve our heartfelt apology. And some cash, too.

See article about the apology Congress is offering, below:
The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a resolution apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and the era of Jim Crow.

The House on Tuesday evening passed a resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow laws.
The nonbinding resolution, which passed on a voice vote, was introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen, a white lawmaker who represents a majority black district in Memphis, Tennessee.
While many states have apologized for slavery, it is the first time a branch of the federal government has done so, an aide to Cohen said.
In passing the resolution, the House also acknowledged the "injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow."
"Jim Crow," or Jim Crow laws, were state and local laws enacted mostly in the Southern and border states of the United States between the 1870s and 1965, when African-Americans were denied the right to vote and other civil liberties and were legally segregated from whites.
The name "Jim Crow" came from a character played by T.D. "Daddy" Rice who portrayed a slave while in blackface during the mid-1800s.
The resolution states that "the vestiges of Jim Crow continue to this day."
"African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow -- long after both systems were formally abolished -- through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty, the frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity," the resolution states.
The House also committed itself to stopping "the occurrence of human rights violations in the future."
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The resolution does not address the controversial issue of reparations. Some members of the African-American community have called on lawmakers to give cash payments or other financial benefits to descendents of slaves as compensation for the suffering caused by slavery.
It is not the first time lawmakers have apologized to an ethnic group for injustices.
In April, the Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, that apologized to Native Americans for "the many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect."
In 1993 the Senate also passed a resolution apologizing for the "illegal overthrow" of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.
In 1988, Congress passed and President Reagan signed an act apologizing to the 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were held in detention camps during World War II. The 60,000 detainees who were alive at the time each received $20,000 from the government.
Peace, kids.


Selma said...

An apology is definitely a start. Our PM recently apologised to our indigenous people who were 'stolen' from their families. He inspired a lot of people to do the same. A public apology may just be a gesture to some but it really means a lot!

Lisa Allender said...

I could not agree more, Selma! Thanks for your input.
I'm about to add an article to today's entry, this time, it's Saudi Arabia and their archaic laws about which I'll rant!

Lydia said...

Yes, if we alloted oh, say, even 1/4 of the money we're spending on the war in Iraq as an education fund that would be life-changing for the recipients. And don't Americans get that raising up the down-trodden benefits the whole country?
I really do wish this had been done years ago, and certainly not just 90+- days before Obama is nominated. It's bad timing and looks like placation.

Lisa Allender said...

Yep, Lydia--the money spent on Iraq is lost dollars, for sure. The majority goes to overpriced contractors, NOT any safety-net for troops, etc...and the total spent so far is just astronomical!!More than "placation", I also worry that when reparations ARE finally voted on, and paid,(of course, this will take months, and likely Obama would already be the sitting President) it will then look as if it's "Obama's idea", which of course it is NOT, but the most racist/bigoted element in the USA, will certainly start SAYING that, which will then likely cause resentment, promote a lack of understanding, etc.. Sigh.