The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a historic resolution apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and segregation.
The nonbinding resolution, introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen, marks the first time a branch of the federal government has apologized for slavery.
Cohen is a white member of Congress who represents a majority black district in Memphis, Tennessee. He is facing a re-election
challenge next week from a young black female lawyer, Nikki Tinker
, and earlier this year he abandoned his effort to join the Congressional Black Caucus after some colleagues objected, according to The Guardian.
The resolution, which passed on a voice vote Tuesday evening, does not discuss reparations, which would provide financial compensation to descendants of slaves. It does express a “commitment to rectify the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow.”
The text of the resolution “acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow” and specifically “apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow.”
And the resolution also seems to acknowledge its own limitations, explaining that “an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs committed can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help Americans confront the ghosts of their past.”
“Today represents a milestone in our nation’s efforts to remedy the ills of our past,” Rep. Carolyn C. Kilpatrick, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement. “I applaud Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) and all the co-sponsors of H.Res. 194. We must now continue our efforts to free African Americans from the shackles of inferior education, inadequate health care, and lack of jobs.”
Apologies Have Been Offered Before
On the presidential campaign, Senator John McCain said last October that he would support
a federal apology for slavery, although some critics note that he failed to support
the bill when it was discussed in February of this year.
For his part, Senator Barack Obama has said he has little interest
in an official government apology for slavery or reparations for descendants of slaves, according to the Associated Press.
Asked if he would support reparations for Native Americans, Senator Obama said last week that “the more important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds.” Although he reportedly noted that by “every socio-economic indicator Native Americans are doing worse” than other Americans, he said he was “more concerned about delivering a better life,” according to a report on BlackAmericaWeb.com
Obama added. “The best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people that are unemployed,” Obama told an audience at the Unity convention in Chicago.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution apologizing to Native Americans, and in 1988, Congress passed and President Reagan signed a law apologizing to 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, according to CNN.
Resolution Apologizing For Slavery and Segregation
The full text
of the slavery measure, House Resolution 194, is as follows:
Mr. COHEN (for himself, Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia, Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas, Mr. BRADY of Pennsylvania, Mr. WEXLER, Ms. KILPATRICK, Ms. WOOLSEY, Mr. PALLONE, Ms. LEE, Mr. MCGOVERN, Ms. SCHAKOWSKY, Mrs. MALONEY of New York, Mr. CONYERS, Mr. MORAN of Virginia, Mr. CAPUANO, Mr. RANGEL, Mr. PAYNE, Mr. JEFFERSON, Mr. ELLISON, Mr. AL GREEN of Texas, Mr. BUTTERFIELD, Ms. WATSON, Mr. HINCHEY, Mr. CLEAVER, Ms. CARSON, Mr. ISRAEL, Mr. ACKERMAN, Mr. DAVIS of Alabama, Mr. LEWIS of Georgia, Mr. ABERCROMBIE, Mr. HARE, Mr. KENNEDY, Ms. BALDWIN, Mr. HODES, Mr. FILNER, Mr. HONDA, and Mr. KUCINICH) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
Apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African-Americans.
Whereas millions of Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and the 13 American colonies from 1619 through 1865;
Whereas slavery in America resembled no other form of involuntary servitude known in history, as Africans were captured and sold at auction like inanimate objects or animals;
Whereas Africans forced into slavery were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage;
Whereas enslaved families were torn apart after having been sold separately from one another;
Whereas the system of slavery and the visceral racism against persons of African descent upon which it depended became entrenched in the Nation’s social fabric;
Whereas slavery was not officially abolished until the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865 after the end of the Civil War, which was fought over the slavery issue;
Whereas after emancipation from 246 years of slavery , African-Americans soon saw the fleeting political, social, and economic gains they made during Reconstruction eviscerated by virulent racism, lynchings, disenfranchisement, Black Codes, and racial segregation laws that imposed a rigid system of officially sanctioned racial segregation in virtually all areas of life;
Whereas the system of de jure racial segregation known as `Jim Crow,’ which arose in certain parts of the Nation following the Civil War to create separate and unequal societies for whites and African-Americans, was a direct result of the racism against persons of African descent engendered by slavery ;
Whereas the system of Jim Crow laws officially existed into the 1960’s–a century after the official end of slavery in America–until Congress took action to end it, but the vestiges of Jim Crow continue to this day;
Whereas African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow–long after both systems were formally abolished–through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty, the frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity;
Whereas the story of the enslavement and de jure segregation of African-Americans and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them should not be purged from or minimized in the telling of American history;
Whereas on July 8, 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush acknowledged slavery’s continuing legacy in American life and the need to confront that legacy when he stated that slavery `was . . . one of the greatest crimes of history . . . The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times. But however long the journey, our destiny is set: liberty and justice for all.’;
Whereas President Bill Clinton also acknowledged the deep-seated problems caused by the continuing legacy of racism against African-Americans that began with slavery when he initiated a national dialogue about race;
Whereas a genuine apology is an important and necessary first step in the process of racial reconciliation;
Whereas an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs committed can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help Americans confront the ghosts of their past;
Whereas the legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia has recently taken the lead in adopting a resolution officially expressing appropriate remorse for slavery and other State legislatures are considering similar resolutions; and
Whereas it is important for this country, which legally recognized slavery through its Constitution and its laws, to make a formal apology for slavery and for its successor, Jim Crow, so that it can move forward and seek reconciliation, justice, and harmony for all of its citizens: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives–
(1) acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow;
(2) apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow; and
(3) expresses its commitment to rectify the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow and to stop the occurrence of human rights violations in the future.
Articles written by a Staff Reporter are unsigned reports from a member of the staff.
Too little, too late. Apologies will not eradicate present-day racism; apologies will not eradicate white supremacy; apologies will not dismantle 100 years-plus of segregation and white Affirmative Action.
And why give an apology. . . .and no reparations?
Why give an apology to the Japanese Americans interned in concentration camps during WWII, and $20 million in reparations, but offer no reparations to black Americans whose ancestors suffered the cruelty of American slavery? Why refuse to offer reparations to black Americans whose grandparents, uncles, aunts, mothers and fathers (many of whom are still alive) who suffered through the venomous humiliation of segregation?
Why give $56 million in reparations to the Seminole Tribe, but no reparations to black Americans?
Why the constant, hateful favouritism white-run America? Why?
Why continue in the denigrating callous disregard for black humanity?
Why the continued hate and disdain and utter disrespect, America?
And why now, this cheap, crappy-ass apology?
Apologies are not worth the spittle from a dog’s snout if true reconciliation and reparations are not given. Apologies like the one from the U.S. House of Representatives is nothing but an insult in and of itself. And just wait for when this bill reaches the Senate. It will be more of the same nasty, vile behaviour that occurred when the U.S. Senate offered a half-assed apology to the descendants of black American lynch victims in June 2005:
When this country has debased, defiled, degraded, destroyed, murdered, lynched, burned, raped, starved, burned alive, beaten, drug off family members in the middle of the night to certain death, jailed unjustly, forced into peonage sharecropping, re-enslaved into perpetual slavery via convict leasing, segregated, defamed via racist stereotypes, lies and myths, eaten and hogged the free labor of an entire enslaved race.
This country has grown rich and fat like a disease-ridden blood-engorged tick, and still enjoys the benefits of over 450 years of a legacy that still endures from slavery, the obliteration of Reconstruction, and segregation.
America the Brave, America the Beautiful, America the Great Whore.
Many have benefited all the way into the present from America’s racial pogroms against her black citizens:
-Insurance companies in existence today which have their beginnings in the insuring and financing of the ships of the slave trade;
-Banks of today which owe their existence as repositories for the financial wealth of sadistic slavers of the Atlantic Slave trade;
-Many streets, municipal buildings, bridges, and numerous edifices built from the slave labor of black Americans for over 400 years—-free labor stolen from thousands of innocent black men and women all across the American South during slavery and segregation;
-The building of Wall Street in New York from enslaved black people, and the cruel sick, abominable disregard when the rich ticks built their buildings over the slave burial grounds of so many worked to death enslaved back people. Enslaved African people whose labor created the city of New York. They worked as stevedores in the docks and as laborers in building the fortification now known as Wall Street, which protected the city against attack from Native Americans. Half the remains found in that cemetery in April of 2004, showed the remains of children. Children! Many under the age of 12! Many black women forced along with black men and children to build the fortification were dead by the age of 40;
-The continued all-white gated communities that exist in every major city in America; the racist/application-discrimination of the GI. BILL and the FHA in housing; the building up of white suburbs and all-white sundown towns all across America via the racist discrimination of lending against black Americans with massive loan denials; the creation of many Levitt towns all across America; redlining, gerrymandering that favoured ethnic whites (Italians, Irish, Armenians, Poles, etc.) over black Americans with the building up of ethnic white’s neighborhoods, and the economic destruction of black neighborhoods, while these ethnic whites rampaged, attacked and destroyed many innocent black lives during the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, East St. Louis Race Riot of 1917; Spring Valley Race Massacre of 1890.
The millions of black Americans who suffered under slavery and segregation may be faceless non-entities to you America, but, they were men, women and children who had a right to life, happiness, peace, and freedom. None of which they had the chance to obtain living in this black-race-hating Sodom and Gomorrah.
People alive in this country right now, walk past, on a daily basis, numerous buildings and monuments, that were built by slave labor.
Not some W-2 form, paid on time, with a pay scale commensurate with their skills and experiences group of people.
Many people walk on cobblestone, and brick streets still in existence, streets that were built by the hands of enslaved black men and women.
Many of the people reading my words look upon buildings and other standing edifices, that were created out of the blood, sweat, tears, and flesh of my black ancestors.
And this legislative representation of the U.S. government has the gall to state that it will not acknowledge the payment of reparations. That it will only give a lame-ass, spit-in-your-face apology for all the sick, perverted, depraved, vicious, monstrous atrocities that America committed upon her black citizens? This shitty apology is just that. A true apology involves 1) Reconciliation, the asking of forgiveness for the numerous wrongs you have done a group of people as well as to 2) Make restitution to the wronged group of people; but, America will never have the backbone to do any of that towards her black citizens. She will never be truly sorry and remorseful for the ignominy of slavery and segregation. Until she does, all her words of apology will be nothing but dust.
They know what they can do with their useless apology.
The same thing they can do with their so-called apology for the thousands of brutally murdered lynch victims of America’s filthy Nadir;
Shove it up their ass and break their arm off at the elbow.
As for Sen. John McCain:
“On the presidential campaign, Senator John McCain said last October that he would support a federal apology for slavery, although some critics note that he failed to support the bill when it was discussed in February of this year.”
Nothing that man says will ever convince me that he gives a damn about black Americans.
As for Sen. Barack Obama:
“For his part, Senator Barack Obama has said he has little interest in an official government apology for slavery or reparations for descendants of slaves, according to the Associated Press.”
That he is not standing up more firmly on the issue of reparations shows that he either has 1) no backbone; 2) cares more of what white-run America thinks; or 3) wants to be president so bad, that he is willing to throw black people under the bus to garner as much white support as he can.
It is very obvious that America has a racial hierarchy going on in this country.
Give reparations to Seminoles.
Give reparations to the Japanese Americans.
But, God forbid if you, America, show true equality, reconciliation and respect towards the humanity of your black citizens.
Until America treats all her black citizens as human beings, she will continue to never rise higher than she can.