Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Senate made an apology for slavery the other day,

thus continuing the tradition of useless gestures that make various people feel good. Best of the Web Today had a post on it, including criticizing someone named Carol Swain who insisted that the Republicans should have initiated the apology because it "would have [helped] shed that racist scab on the party."

That crap was appropriately criticized,
The Republican Party came into existence in the 1850s as an antislavery party. It was the first GOP president, Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, ordering slaves in Confederate states freed. Republican Congresses proposed the 13th Amendment, along with the 14th (granting former slaves citizenship and equal protection under the law) and the 15th (giving them the right to vote). Republicans pushed for Reconstruction only to be thwarted by Democrats.

Segregationists remained a core component of the Democratic coalition well into the 20th century. No Democratic president before Harry S. Truman made any significant moves to expand civil rights for blacks; and although President Lyndon B. Johnson was instrumental in pushing the Civil Rights Act through Congress, a greater proportion of Republicans than Democrats supported it.
which lead to her to respond. Among the rest,
Despite a barrage of criticisms, I stand firmly behind my Washington Post comments. It is the Republican Party that has alienated minorities in recent decades by a series of high profile racist incidents. By not taking the leadership role in crafting a national apology when it was in power, the Republican Party missed an important opportunity to help heal America. It also missed an opportunity to reclaim its faded legacy as the party of civil rights and the party of Lincoln.
Uh huh. Let's see, primarily Democrats voted against the Voting Rights Bill, most of the KKK and such boobs were Democrats, it was the Democrat Party that held power in the south during Jim Crow... And it's the current Evil Party that's used minorities, primarily blacks, like counters on a board. I seem to remember some static a while back because a lot of blacks were realizing that, since latinos were becoming a big minority, the Evil Party was making large moves to court them and kind of dumping on blacks. Not like they hadn't for a long time, but it was being openly acknowledged, finally. But the Republican Party(generally known as the Stupid Party for other reasons) should have 'led the charge for an apology to make up for its racist past'.

About what you'd expect from a jackass academic. Anyone who spends this kind of time on an issue 'dear to my heart' that insists people who had nothing to do with it should apologize for something that happened a long time ago... I'm sure she thinks the race warlord poverty pimps like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton & Co. are just wonderful.

14 comments:

James said...

No one's asking for an apology from people who had nothing to do with slavery and discrimination.

The Senate's apology is on behalf of the nation, which certainly did engage in that history. Is it so wrong for an institution to get around to apologizing for what it's done wrong?

Firehand said...

So 'the nation' is apologizing... does that include for the people who were against slavery? Who helped slaves escape? Who worked to end it? Like the majority of people back then, nobody in my family owned a slave, so why should they apologize for me and mine?

Slavery was allowed in the US, like all over the world, and it wasn't ended near soon enough. And? Showboating politicians playing "See how sorry and wonderful I am?" changes that? Fixes it? Which is exactly what this is to most of them.

James said...

Firehand, no one is left alive who opposed slavery. All of the original 13 states had slavery, and few abolished slavery until close to the Civil War. So no existing governments come to this with "clean hands."

How do you know that nobody in your family owned a slave? In the north, for instance, one in four families owned slaves. It was a common phenomenon of the middle class.

More importantly, everyone "back then" benefited from slavery. It was the engine that drove the colonial, and later the U.S., economy until the Civil War.

I agree strongly that no one should be apologizing on your behalf, or mine, since we weren't responsible for what happened. However, I don't see why anyone should have a problem with the nation apologizing for what it did, and hopefully seeking to address the ways in which that history has effects to this day.

Fire said...

Well, hate to admit it, but I had nothing to do with it....my ancestors owned forced laborers. And back in the day, when my ancestors died, they left those forced laborers to their children. I've got some VERY old Last Will and Testaments.

But, James, I have a problem with the President apologizing for shit, knowing it's not going to make a difference. And I think enough apologies were probably made when slavery was abolished. In and of itself, that is an apology, in my opinion.

Firehand said...

Sorry to have taken so long to get back to this.

James, nobody who owned or didn't own slaves, supported or opposed it, has been alive for a long time. It's done.

Well, among other things, from the family records I've seen it tended toward Union Army service, and there's no record at all of anyone owning another human.

No, the whole nation didn't benefit from it; besides being a bad thing of itself, slavery had a whole range of bad effects, mostly in the areas where it was common.

And it's that phrase 'for what it did' that bothers me. The founders made a nasty compromise in allowing slavery to continue because if they hadn't, the war would've been lost. And no, they and later people didn't do enough, it would seem, to end it. But the 'nation' did not do it; lots of people did oppose it, strongly. We've got serious here & now problems, and the government is screwing around with symbolic gestures that don't really mean crap; THAT really bothers me.

James said...

Fire, this isn't about the president apologizing. It's about Congress doing so. As for whether or not an apology will make a difference, I think that's a matter of opinion.

Look at it this way: Do we ever tell children that they don't have to apologize for doing something wrong, because it "won't make a difference"?

As for whether any apologies were offered when slavery was abolished, they weren't. Freed slaves were dumped out of slavery with nothing, and left to fend for themselves, with no expression of sympathy or support.

Firehand, we can agree that no one responsible for slavery is still alive. (That isn't true, of course, for the part of the apology which addresses the Jim Crow era.)

from the family records I've seen it tended toward Union Army service, and there's no record at all of anyone owning another human.

Union army service meant that your ancestors were fighting to preserve the Union. Relatively few Union soldiers were abolitionist, and it's doubtful that any were fighting to end slavery, given that the Union didn't decide to do so until the war was almost over.

As for no record of owning human beings, how detailed are the records of your family back then? One in four northern households owned slaves at its peak, so the odds over several generations aren't bad at all. Or good, depending on how you look at it.

No, the whole nation didn't benefit from it; besides being a bad thing of itself, slavery had a whole range of bad effects, mostly in the areas where it was common.

Slavery was common in both north and south, and its effects varied. In the South, yes, it generated tremendous wealth but left the South an underdeveloped, agricultural region.

In the North, slavery and businesses related to slavery built much of the economy in colonial times, and allowed the North to industrialize before the Civil War. That's why the U.S. is an industrial nation today, and far more advanced economically than most nations in the hemisphere.

So, yes, the whole country benefited enormously from slavery.

they and later people didn't do enough, it would seem, to end it.

Not enough? They didn't do anything to end slavery. Period.

Okay, there were a few abolitionists in the North. But that was a radical, progressive, leftist ideology until very close to the Civil War.

Even in the northern states, where owning slaves become economically unimportant (as opposed to most of the economy being connected to southern slavery), most states only abolished slavery in the decades right before the Civil War.

the 'nation' did not do it

The nation most certainly did do it, choosing to allow slavery and the importation of new slaves, explicitly authorizing its expansion into new states, the recovery of escaped slaves, etc.

We've got serious here & now problems, and the government is screwing around with symbolic gestures

Whether or not you believe that an apology will help in addressing the legacy of slavery today, that's a real and a serious problem.

I also fail to see how a symbolic gesture hinders, in any way, our efforts to address other issues.

I don't hear many people complaining about all of the other symbolic resolutions passed by Congress and state legislatures all the time. It makes me wonder why this subject, in particular, inspires people to complain that they shouldn't be passing symbolic resolutions.

Firehand said...

You tell children to apologize for something they did wrong, not for what someone else did.

No, I don't know what was in the minds of my various ancestors; neither do you. And it really doesn't matter, does it? Because they're long dead and gone, and I'm sick of being told that 'the country' needs to apologize for what someone did 150 years ago.

You can argue that the country benefited from slavery; you can also point out the damage done to people in the South(especially) by it.

'they didn't do anything' to end slavery? Nobody? Not until just before the war? Really?

If you don't hear people complaining about all the symbolic bullcrap coming out of Congress and various states, then you're not listening; LOTS of people yell about it. This subject doesn't 'in particular' upset people in that regard. It does in particular upset a lot of people because, again,
It demands everybody apologize for something they didn't do, and
It's more symbolic bullcrap. Like the UN issuing statements about the current slavery in Darfur but not actually, y'know, doing anything.

We're not going to come to agreement on this. Slavery was bad. Period. I wish that devil's bargain hadn't been needed in the beginning, and that it had been trashed as soon as possible after. It's over. If you want to keep working for symbolic statements about every wrong done to everyone by someone else, it'll never end.

And, by the way, has anyone gone to the descendants of the African tribes and kingdoms who raided for slaves and sold them to traders and asked them to apologize for doing so? How about the arabs who did the same?

James said...

You tell children to apologize for something they did wrong, not for what someone else did.

Congress did do this. The nation did do this.

If you don't believe in institutions apologizing for what they did in the historic past, then fine. But I'd remind you that most Americans speak of the good aspects of the nation and its past as if they were ours--our pride, our glory, our responsibility.

No, I don't know what was in the minds of my various ancestors; neither do you.

We can't ever truly know what was in their minds, yes, but we can know enough about what they did, and stood for, not to suggest, for instance, that they were in the U.S. during slavery and must not have been slave owners.

I know quite a bit about my ancestors, actually, having studied them intensively and having read their private letters and such.

'they didn't do anything' to end slavery? Nobody? Not until just before the war? Really?

You raised the issue of whether "the founders" and "later people" did "enough" to end slavery.

Of course, a few people did make an effort to end slavery. But the founders, by and large, did nothing, and the record of the nation, and the individual states, on slavery prior to the Civil War is nothing to be particularly proud of.

This subject doesn't 'in particular' upset people in that regard.

It may not upset you in particular in this regard; you may be objecting to this symbolic gesture no more or less than you do to the hundreds of other such gestures every year.

However, the sheer volume of media comment and blog postings on the subject indicate that far more people are upset about this gesture, in particular, than virtually any other -- probably than any other, period.

It does in particular upset a lot of people because, again,
It demands everybody apologize for something they didn't do, and
It's more symbolic bullcrap.


Like I said, it seems to upset a lot of people more than most symbolic, um, "gestures."

As for you feeling, and I stress feeling, as if this resolution demanded that you apologize for something you didn't do, I sympathize. No one should apologize for anything they didn't do.

But that just brings us back to the question of symbolic gestures: Why does THIS apology in the name of the U.S. bother you more than most? Do you always object when the U.S. apologizes for its past actions, on the grounds that it seems as if you're being asked to apologize personally? Or do you take this apology personally in a way that you didn't take the apology to, say, Japanese-Americans interned in U.S. concentration camps, or apologies for U.S. negligence over, say, industrial waste?

has anyone gone to the descendants of the African tribes and kingdoms who raided for slaves and sold them to traders and asked them to apologize for doing so?

No one needs to. Those societies freely acknowledge that they were responsible for every slave brought across the Atlantic Ocean.

In my experience, in fact, Africans rarely trouble with the idea that it wasn't them, personally, who committed those acts; they simply apologize for what was done by their societies long before they were born.

This doesn't mean, of course, that they believe they're being asked to apologize as individuals.

Firehand said...

Who said it bothers me more than most? It's one more piece of symbolism Congress is doing instead of, oh, reading the freaking bills before they vote on them.

'...freely acknowledge that they were responsible...'. If they want to apologize for something they didn't to, they can do so. Not my problem. Which leaves the rest of the question: anybody asked the arabs to apologize? And did they? Don't really care, but curious.

If I had to guess, there are two reasons why a lot of people are so much more bothered by this gesture than others:
A hell of a lot of people were crippled and died in the war that ended slavery in the US, and
The race warlord poverty pimps will use this as a stepping stone to demanding reparations.

James said...

Who said it bothers me more than most?

I allowed that it might not bother you more than most gestures. However, you then said that it does bother "a lot of people" "in particular," because of its specific nature.

If you really mean that you think it bothers a lot of people more than most gestures, but that it doesn't particularly bother you, then I'm glad for the clarification.

If they want to apologize for something they didn't to, they can do so.

That's your perspective, and I respect it. Here in the west, we tend to view these matters through the lens of the individual. We rarely apologize collectively for what our society has done in the past.

anybody asked the arabs to apologize? And did they?

Yes, and many have.

A hell of a lot of people were crippled and died in the war that ended slavery in the US

That's true, but that war erupted for a variety of reasons, and those people died either defending the Union, or fighting for southern independence. Few of those soldiers were abolitionist, and none had reason to assume that slavery would end as a result of the war.

The race warlord poverty pimps will use this as a stepping stone to demanding reparations.

That's an ... interesting belief.

Nevertheless, I was taught that one never fails to apologize when wrong ... even if it might lead to ridicule, or claims for restitution.

If you're afraid of reparations claims--I mean, if you believe that a lot of people are--that's still no reason not to have the nation apologize, if its actions were wrong and brought about terrible harm.

Firehand said...

But did the arabs apologize as a nation? As a people? Since individual doesn't seem to count, except for the US as a whole needing to.

None had reason to assume slavery would end? Really?

I have that belief because, a few years back, I read of a couple of the RWPPs saying that 'the apology would be the first real step toward seeking- or demanding- reparations. 'Interesting', isn't it? And no, I'm not going to dig around for links; At the risk of being nasty, I don't have enough interest in this argument to.

And you're back to "I was taught that one never fails to apologize when wrong"; Were never going to see eye-to-eye on this. I'll apologize when I'm wrong; I won't apologize for something I didn't do. And I think this "The nation must apologize" business is crap, for various reasons. One being that they whole damn nation didn't commit that wrong back then, and there's nobody around who did the wrong to apologize for it.

James said...

But did the arabs apologize as a nation? As a people?

No, there is no Arab nation, and no single Arab people (or society which could collectively apologize). This would be like asking all people of Anglo-Saxon descent to apologize.

Since individual doesn't seem to count, except for the US as a whole needing to.

No one is arguing that other nations or societies shouldn't apologize. Just the opposite. And no one is arguing that individuals should apologize.

None had reason to assume slavery would end? Really?

Yes, really. During the Civil War, Congress debated for a long time over whether or not to end slavery, and couldn't decide until January 1865.

The idea that the North was unified around the goal of ending slavery, and that emancipation was an inevitable outcome of the conflict, arose only after the war.

I read of a couple of the RWPPs saying that 'the apology would be the first real step toward seeking- or demanding- reparations. 'Interesting', isn't it?

Interesting, that those who support reparations for slavery would claim that an apology is just the first step towards reparations? No, to me that simply seems obvious.

I'll apologize when I'm wrong; I won't apologize for something I didn't do.

This isn't back to the business about "apologizing when you're wrong." We agree on that; this is about whether or not an institution can apologize for its historic misdeeds.

And yes, you're right, we'll have to disagree about that. If you believe institutions can't apologize if their individual members have changed, I can respect that.

But please stop saying that you won't apologize for something you didn't do. No one's asking you to, and I would never do that, either.

they whole damn nation didn't commit that wrong back then

Actually, the "whole damn nation" most certainly did commit that wrong.

The northern states did it, and the southern states did it. Most citizens were deeply complicit in it.

Does it matter that some few were abolitionists? Or that states which came later never had slavery?

If that was the case, then the nation could never apologize for anything it did. Reagan and Congress, for instance, couldn't have apologized to the Japanese-Americans who were rounded up and put in American concentration camps--because not all citizens agreed with that policy, and because two states only came into existence after that policy.

Firehand said...

This is the last I'm going to say on this:
No, the whole nation didn't commit the wrong, and I refuse to buy in to the collective-guilt crap. From what I've read, I also don't buy the 'most citizens were deeply complicit' crap.

Tell you what: you stop insisting that 'the nation', which includes me, should apologize and I'll stop saying I won't.

"Interesting, that those who support reparations for slavery would claim that an apology is just the first step towards reparations? No, to me that simply seems obvious." I used 'interesting' because you used that word in describing my 'belief' based on people's actual words. And that reply indicates that you agree with the idea that the government should take money from people who had nothing to do with slavery to give it to people who've never been slaves. I'm against this kind of theft and vote-buying in guise of 'reparations', and I always will be.

Who's next? Women weren't allowed to vote, so women should get reparations? People brought over as indentured servants who were sometimes treated as slaves, try to track down descendants so they can be bought off? Where do you plan on stopping?

Reparations is garbage, insisting the whole nation should apologize for this is also, and for all too many of these politicians it's based on self-interest; buying votes and looking 'noble and caring'. I'd rather they stop posturing and actually give a damn about the nation.

Of course, with all too many that would require leaving office.

James said...

No, the whole nation didn't commit the wrong

Okay. I don't understand what you mean, since I don't see how a few people not going along makes a difference. As I've said, we don't say the nation isn't responsible for other bad policies, just because a few citizens never supported those policies.

But we've both said what we have to say on this.

I also don't buy the 'most citizens were deeply complicit' crap.

Hmm. Well, most citizens, north and south, knowingly participated in economic activities closely connected to, and entirely dependent upon, slavery. That's a basic fact of economic history, and I consider that to amount to deep complicity. What moral responsibility that entails is another question, but fortunately one which is purely theoretical at this point.

you stop insisting that 'the nation', which includes me, should apologize and I'll stop saying I won't.

I'm sorry that it feels to you as if the nation apologizing means that you're apologizing. I really am, because I don't believe anyone should apologize for anything they haven't done. I'm certainly not apologizing for this history.

you agree with the idea that the government should take money from people who had nothing to do with slavery to give it to people who've never been slaves

No, I don't believe in doing that at all.

Well, not because of slavery. The government takes money from taxpayers (people who had nothing to do with slavery) and gives it to taxpayers (people who've never been slaves) all the time.

This isn't about paying people because their ancestors were slaves.

Where do you plan on stopping?

I don't plan on any of this, but I think the distinction is whether the nation is culpable, and whether people are still suffering demonstrable harm as a result. That, at any rate, seems to be the basis of the argument.