Sunday, January 21, 2007

REACT: Slavery apology

Having just issued a personal apology, I am familiar with the subject. This brings to mind the question of slavery and the call for apologies and even reparations – a euphemism for cold cash. Certainly there are situations where apologies are due, and even some compensation for the wrong – like “I’m sorry I backed into you car, here is my insurance agent.”

The problem with the slavery demand is that it does not meet any test of legitimacy. They are nothing more than a pandering to political correctness to shake down the taxpayers for some money.

Here are my rules for apologies. They should come from the person, or persons, who committed the wrong. Whoa! Now that is a revolutionary concept, don’t you think? Since when do people who committed no wrong have a requirement to apologize for anything?

Personally, I do not own any slaves … never have. The fact that my then 5-year-old daughter told neighbors that her adopted black older sister was our slave does not count – even though she did baby sit, wash dishes and take out the garbage on occasion. You can see from the accompanying photograph (including her adopted son, who now serves in Iraq), Yvette appears very happy despite the years of household chores.

As I mentally searched my family history to uncover some connection to slavery that might suggest some complicity in the past sins of indentured servitude, I realized that my ancestors were not in American when the hideous institution was in effect. They were growing grapes and making wine in a country that never had slavery.

Since this is the experience of most Americans, the notion of a national apology seems to be a stretch at best.

If there is any meaning to ensnaring long past institutions and groups into the slavery apology business, I think we have to be specific. As a mostly Republican type, my political ancestors in America were the abolitionist. They fought and died to end slavery. Democrats, on the other hand, were fighting to preserve human ownership. If the past matters so much, then why aren't the apology proponents call for a mass exedous of blacks from the Dem party? Shouldn't there be reparations for the the more recent segregation, Jim Crow laws and the lynchings that were a coomon part of the Democrat party agenda in the Republicanless "old south." This makes me think that if anyone is obligated to apologize, it is only the donkey butts who bear an apparent burden of guilt. Some of them (i.e. ex- KKKer Senator Robert Byrd) are still alive and can reasonably apologize for thier personal sins.

Now some activists think that commercial enterprises that had “ties to slavery” in the past … the waaaaaaaaaay long ago past … should apologize, pay reparations and even be denied government contracts. This suggests that it was not people who were responsible, but the corporate entity. In a funny sort of way, by transferring culpability to contemporary company officers, you are absolving the guys who really were culpable. This would be like holding some 22nd Century Enron executives responsible for today’s debacle and scandal. I mean, what if the company passed hands because of a hostile take-over? The new guys now have to make amends for the old guard who fought against them. If we apply this reasoning to criminal justice, maybe we should hang Mussolini’s grandkids.

One argument raised by the slavery apologists is the ongoing negative impact of slavery. Any modern day suffering under racial prejudice should be compensated. Somehow, we are supposed to know what damage accrued to an individual because their great, great, great, great grandpa was horribly snatched from his village in Angola. In reality, there is no way to know the value of the outcome. Martin Luther King may have been a starving kid in the dry plans of Ethiopia had it not been for slavery. Even my Africa-to-Jamaica-to-America daughter might never have been part of my family. I think that would have been a loss for all of us. Just because many outcomes stem from an awful act does not make the outcome bad.

Any current prejudice can be addressed appropriately. If someone denies a black person their basic civil right, like renting an apartment, THEN there is a need to apologize and perhaps provide some monetary compensation. In this case, you have a real live perpetrator and a real live victim. You also have laws and courts and real evidence.

I bear no prejudice, and have proudly raised a bunch of kids without prejudice in their hearts. Consequently, I feel no compunction to atone. I am not guilty … not sorry for my conduct … not sorry for my ancestor’s behavior. I do not believe that there is a black person alive today who is due a nickel in reparation for the most surely wrongful suffering of ancestors he or she cannot even trace. In a true apology, don’t you have to recognize your wrongdoing? Feel guilty?

Okay, there are exceptions … like when my mother made me apologize to the kid down the block for hitting him. I gave a barely audible “I’m sorry” without sincere conviction. He deserved it. However, it was not as if I was being forced to apologize for my great grandfather whacking some neighbor kid. How ridiculous is that?

The idea of offering an apologia for slavery at this date is so absurd, so twisted and so disingenuous that it can only be explained as yet another example of politically correct liberal thinking.

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