The New York Times’ Timothy Egan’s call for President Obama to apologize for slavery surprised me.
My first reaction, a day later, remains: no!
No, because, first and foremost, that apology must be made by a white President on behalf of white America to Black America. Such an apology, especially as the final act of a lame duck Black president, would carry with it none of the meaningful things we look for in an apology.
No, because the fact that his lineage doesn’t connect him to slavery in the “African American” sense doesn’t make him better placed to make such an apology. If a father hit his child and the mother apologized for the father’s action, should that child be satisfied? The fact that, should he desire to do so, he could, doesn’t mean he should. It isn’t his apology to make.
No, because it would enable the detractors of truth, reconciliation, and reparations to say that we are a post-racial society and forever remove the possibility of a true reconciliation process.
A formal apology in the name of the American people should be one that is heartfelt, the result of a national consensus – it doesn’t have to be unanimous agreement – and, most importantly, the culmination of a truth, reconciliation and reparations process.
However, as things are today, absent any kind of truth, never mind reconciliation or reparation, an apology from President Obama would be completely without meaning. Should the conditions be present and, at such a point in time, our leader happen to be a person of color, then that person would be the appropriate one to make the apology.
A plan for truth, reconciliation, and reparations needs to be at the top of the agenda for America’s next president. There is no doubt that there has been a sharp deterioration in America’s racial tolerance in the last seven years. While this spike may be due, in part, to our diminished economic status, there is no denying that our longstanding intentional lack of focus on the slavery portion of American history in our schools, polarized political climate, the spike in the number of hate groups across the nation, the coarsening of racial discourse, the arming of Americans, police brutality and mass-incarceration – all are contributing irritants to our worsening status.
America’s soul is being torn apart by white hate and resentment.
Apologize for Slavery – The New York Times
June 19, 2015
A WEEK of absurdity around a confused racial con artist, and a massacre in a black church brings us to this: Today is the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, when the last of the American slaves were told they were free. Now, to put it to good use, at a time when a post-racial era seems very much out of reach.
The first black man to live in the White House, long hesitant about doing anything bold on the color divide, could make one of the most simple and dramatic moves of his presidency: apologize for the land of the free being, at one time, the largest slaveholding nation on earth.
The Confederate flag that still flies on the grounds of the Statehouse in South Carolina, cradle of the Civil War, is a reminder that the hatred behind the proclaimed right to own another human being has never left our shores.
An apology would not kill that hatred, but it would ripple, positively, in ways that may be felt for years.
As the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother who died more than a century after slavery ended, Barack Obama has little ancestral baggage on this issue. Yet no man could make a stronger statement about America’s original sin than the first African-American president. […]
Read the rest of Apologize for Slavery at The New York Times