Thursday, July 31, 2008

House Apologizes for Slavery and Jim Crow

"Words without deeds are meaningless."

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and the era of Jim Crow (that officially ended in the mid-1960's). Lawmakers also said they were committed to rectifying "the lingering consequences" of slavery and segregation.

The nonbinding resolution, which passed on a voice vote, was introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen, a white Congressman 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. 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.

Congressman Cohen issued the following statement on his website after the passage of the bill:
I am very proud that my colleagues in the House of Representatives passed our resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow in the United States. This is a historic moment in the ongoing struggle for civil rights in this country, and I hope that this legislation can serve to open the dialogue on race and equality for all. Apologies are not empty gestures, but are a necessary first step towards any sort of reconciliation between people. I thank Congressman John Conyers (MI-14), whose assistance in moving this resolution forward was indispensable, for his strong support for this bill.

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 descendants of slaves as compensation for the suffering caused by slavery.

Read the entire article on the slavery apology here.

plez sez: big friggin' whoop! so a non-binding resolution by congress comes along 143 years after slavery to apologize to a group of people who are not slaves and don't know any slaves (save stories from parents and grandparents)! i've never been a proponent of these empty gestures, because they are only words that do nothing to heal the wounds that have afflicted many in the Black community from slavery to this day.

this non-binding resolution will not put food in the bellies of the poor Black children that will go to bed hungry tonight. this non-binding resolution will not put a hot breakfast on their plates tomorrow morning before they trudge off to school hungry from the night before. this non-binding resolution will not provide economic development and bring jobs closer to their neighborhoods so their mothers and fathers can find a decent job where they live.

this non-binding resolution will not improve the schools that are attended by a majority of Black children, schools that are in the worse shape, have the most inexperienced teachers, and whose students perform the worse on standardized tests. this non-binding resolution does not address the 50 percent of our boys who will not graduate from high school. this non-binding resolution does not address the more than 60 percent of Black high school dropouts who will find their way into the criminal justice system.

this non-binding resolution will not provide access to higher education for the Black students who do graduate from high school. this non-binding resolution will not help the Black college graduates find a job.

this non-binding resolution will not prevent mortgage companies and insurance carriers from red-lining Black communities; charging higher interest rates and higher premiums for insurance.

this non-binding resolution will not prevent employers from being so threatened by Black men that if they hire them, they won't be the last hired and the first fired (CNN's Black in America reported that a white man with a felony record has a better chance of getting hired than an educated Black man with no record). this non-binding resolution won't stop a racist from using his/her dim view of the Black race to hold back or hold down or denigrate or slander or impugn a person of African-American descent.

this non-binding resolution will not bring to justice the hundreds - no, thousands - who have raped and pillaged the Black community for profit, greed, and hate. this non-binding resolution will not bring to justice those who have killed and lynched Black people with impunity without fear of reprisal or prosecution.

this non-binding resolution will not address the wealth that my family and millions of families like mine have been denied over the past 300 years! imagine the labor, work, investments, and land that has been denied Black people from the day that their status of indentured servant was converted to slave back in the 1600's and 1700's. how many BILLIONS of dollars of net worth has been stolen or appropriated out of the coffers of Black people, money that the Rockefellers, Kennedys, Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, etc. etc. have enjoyed without equal share with their Black brethren? how many MILLIONAIRES who grace the pages of Fortune magazine had their family fortunes built on the back of free and cheap laborers? how many southern white families are still living off of the money that was made from Black labor in the cotton and tobacco fields of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia?

there is a precedence for Congress apologizing to ethnic groups for injustices:
  • 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

  • in 1993 the senate also passed a resolution apologizing for the "illegal overthrow" of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.

  • in april 2008, the Senate passed a resolution sponsored by sen. sam brownback (R-KS) that apologized to Native Americans for "the many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect."

  • it isn't lost on plezWorld that the two groups that have suffered the longest and the most in america (native americans and Blacks) are the last groups to receive "apologies" from the federal government.

    i'm not big on reparations: at this point, there needs to be wholesale correction to the way that Black America (as a whole) does business... and a temporary infusion of cash will not fix our problems of the lack of adequate health care and health education, the lack of quality education in our communities, and the lack of economic development and security in our communities.

    i would favor other forms of reparations (and affirmative action) directed to Black americans over the next 30 to 40 years that would begin address these problems:
  • enact creative measures to eliminate the achievement gap in public school education for Black students

  • begin to pay teachers a lot more for teaching in lower performing public schools in impoverished communities

  • eliminate tuition for Black college students making progress towards bachelors or advanced degrees

  • increase public safety in poor communities with better paid and better trained police

  • provide tax credits for training programs that target under-represented communities in the workforce

  • to increase entrepreneurship, reduce or eliminate taxes on Black-owned businesses that operate in the Black community

  • provide tax credits for companies that outsource jobs to under-represented communities in the workforce (instead of opening a customer service shop in Bangalore, India, open one in Albany, Georgia)

  • reduce or eliminate the tax burden on Black americans (lower taxes so Blacks get to keep more of their wages)

  • provide refinancing to lower mortgage rates for Black homeowners (lower the fixed mortgage rate to below the prime rate)

  • provide lower rates for insurance on homes and automobiles

  • failing that, let's go to Plan B... it's been about 45 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act and japanese-americans were given their reparation payments about 45 years after they were detained during World War II, i guess all African-Americans over the age of 45 should start looking for a $20,000 check in the mail.


    1 comment:

    Keith said...

    If they are really sincere about being sorry for slavery, they can give me my forty acres and a mule.