07 Oct 2008 Slavery Apology and Reparations Debate Neglects Pressing Matters of the Present Day
A commentary by Project 21 staff research associate Stephen Roberts about the reaction to a recent congressional apology for slavery was published by The Washington Times this past Saturday.
In his commentary, Roberts discusses the need to get past the slavery issue in order to address present-day problems facing black Americans. Reparations further muddle the pursuit of modern progress. Roberts writes:
With this diversity of outcomes in mind, how are activists and lawmakers dealing with an apology for slavery? They are doing what they do best – playing politics…
In calling it just “a large step,” Mr. Cummings skillfully leaves open the door to ask for more – namely, reparations. A Toledo Blade editorial made clear the apology cost nothing, calling it “an empty gesture” of “little use to the victims [it is] meant to make feel better.” Quoted in the Final Call, Professor Michael Eric Dyson said: “Reparations are certainly one of the signals that America can send if they are serious about reconstituting American culture…”
The problem with the apology debate – and the ensuing racial backbiting – is the consequent neglect of the pressing matters of the present day. Columnist Christopher Caldwell notes there are no more slave owners or Jim Crow laws. Segments of black America, however, are currently trapped in cyclic poverty. What can be done for them that does not involve historical naval-gazing or polarizing stereotyped groups that no longer technically exist?
The entire commentary can be read by clicking here