Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Let's ask the Australians: Should the U.S. Government apologize for slavery?

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on behalf of the Australian government and people formally apologized for the mistreatment of the aborigines through the 1970’s. Probably to a person the aboriginal people felt it was long overdue. Many of them shed tears of joy both on the island and throughout the world.
An American can’t help but automatically wonder about an apology to Blacks in the U.S. Well at least this American can’t help but wonder.

On June 13, 2005, the United States Senate formally apologized for its failure in previous decades to enact a federal anti-lynching law. Prior to the vote, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu noted, "There may be no other injustice in American history for which the Senate so uniquely bears responsibility.”
Good start. Of the 4743 reported lynchings in the U.S., 3,446 or 72.6% were perpetrated against Blacks according to the archives at the Tuskegee Institute.
The resolution expresses "the deepest sympathies and most solemn regrets of the Senate to the descendants of victims of lynching, the ancestors of whom were deprived of life, human dignity and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States."

There are several pro and con arguments concerning an apology and reparations for slavery. A dispassionate eye can see merit on both sides. Of course the most popular reason not to apologize and make reparation from those who are ignorant of the facts and issues (and I do believe I am giving them more credit than they deserve) is, “Why should I apologize? I never owned any slaves.”

O.K., suppose we just call it “even,” on slavery and pick up on June 19, 1865? Many know this day as Juneteenth, the day Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived on Galveston Island and enforce the emancipation proclamation, which had legally been in effect since January 1, 1863.

Can those Whites who claim to not have owned slaves claim to have not prospered from the institution and it’s aftermath? Slavery was not only forced labor but also the justification for a cruel system of slavery many knew was inherently wrong but financially and socially advantageous.
The law invariably turned its back on crimes against Blacks as in the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald (July 24, 1961 – March 20, 1981) who was picked at random by two Ku Klux Klan members in Mobil, Alabama. Local police dismissed it as a drug deal gone bad and put it to rest. It took a Jesse Jackson protest march (O.K. Jesse Jackson hasn’t always been a slouch) and a public demand for answers and FBI involvement from pressure by Michael and Thomas Figures, local activists to bring the culprits to justice two year later.

Laws, which helped enforce a kind of degradation and psychic humiliation that was not much better than slavery, replaced legal slavery.
In 1883, the Supreme Court ruled the Civil Rights Act of 1875 as unconstitutional. Said civil rights act pronounced: "That all persons ... shall be entitled to full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement."
Okay then in light of this rendering of the law maybe there should be an apology for the Rosewood Massacre??

“On December 22, 1993, historians from Florida State University, Florida A&M University, and the University of Florida delivered a 100-page accounting (with 400 pages of attached documentation) of the Rosewood massacre after interviewing both black and white survivors of the incident entitled, "Documented History of the Incident which Occurred at Rosewood, Florida in January 1923" to the Florida Board of Regents. The report provided support for a compensation bill to the survivors, a bill that proponents fought to get passed. Lobbyists began to receive hate mail, some from the Ku Klux Klan, and one legislator remarked that the public opposition received was an unprecedented 10 to 1.
Officially, six blacks and two whites are the recorded death toll of the first week of January 1923. Historians, however, disagree about this number, recognizing that many survivors fled in different directions, never to return.” No one was ever prosecuted.
I guarantee that no one of color benefited from the drop in market competition by the destruction of an entire town.
Maybe the U.S., should apologize for the almost universal attitude that made this and several other Black massacres possible?

Maybe the U.S. should apologize for Redlining- Lending institutions have been shown to treat black mortgage applicants differently when they are buying homes in white neighborhoods than when buying homes in black neighborhoods, thus preserving segregated living patterns for blacks and whites in the United States. I know, I know some of you are thinking, “so what’s your point?”

Racial profiling.

How about an apology for a legal and a prison system that determines sentencing based on race? A study found that in the 25-29 age group, 8.1 percent of black men -- about 1 in 13 -- are incarcerated, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men. The figures are not much different among women. By the end of 2005, black women were more than twice as likely as Hispanics and more than three times as likely as white women to be in prison.

For comparison South Africa under Apartheid incarcerated (1993), Black males: 851 per 100,000
• U.S. under George Bush (2006), Black males: 4,789 per 100,000. This means that America incarceration rate for Black males is 5.8 times higher than the formerly Apartheid South African, once the most openly racist country on the planet.

2001 study by David Mustard, of the University of Georgia, called “Racial, Ethnic and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the US Federal Courts” shows that “bank robbery and drug trafficking exhibit the largest black-white differentials.
Blacks receive 9.4 and 10.5 months longer than whites in bank robbery and drug trafficking, respectively. The percentage difference is greatest for those convicted of drug trafficking, where blacks are assigned sentences 13.7 percent longer than whites. The aggregate Hispanic-white difference is driven primarily by those convicted of drug trafficking and firearm possession/trafficking, the only two crimes with significant Hispanic coefficients. For these two crimes, Hispanics receive 6.1 and 3.7 additional months compared to whites, or 8.0 percent and 7.0 percent longer in percentage terms.”

The record is clear, not obscure, nor occult. The government is made up of people like the ones who never owned slaves who demonstrated a desire to exploit and dominate another people. It is the darkest hour of American history…. No double entendre intended.
Much darker that the Japanese internment camps for which the government apologized and made reparation.
Worse than the January 17, 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, for which the U.S. apologized.

Worse than the FBI mistake that landed Brandon Mayfield in jail for two weeks for which the FBI apologized. The apology came hours after a judge dismissed the case against Brandon Mayfield, who had been held as a material witness in the Madrid bombings case, which killed 191 people and injured about 2,000 others.”

The U.S. government Bureau of Indian Affairs apologized to the Native American.

Let me be clear. The principal of the thing goes well beyond an apology being owed. Don’t apologize! Believe me I will Gloria Gaynor survive and more. However, with an apology would come an expulsion of the Elephant in the corner bloated and full of magnolia blossoms … and that that strange fruit stain that just won’t come out. It would be good for your soul to confess. White guilt would probably disappear.

As far as apologizes that would make me feel good..

I would like an apology:
For the “A Black Man Did It Defense” such as perpetrated by Susan Smith of South Carolina and Charles “Chuck” Stuart of Boston. For The Black guy “always” “getting it” first and worse in action adventure and horror movies. For Praising Black folk for being articulate. For The Pat Boone Version of Tutti Frutti. For White folks being oblivious to their sense of entitlement and privilege.
UNITED STATES PUBLIC LAW 103-150 103d Congress Joint Resolution 19

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