Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stuff Your Sorries in a Sack, Mister!

By Charles Patton, Graduate Research Associate at the Kirwan Institute

Recently the U.S. Senate voted unanimously for a resolution acknowledging "the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws."
In response to the resolution, Rep. Stephen I. Cohen (D-Tenn.) said, "there are going to be African Americans who think that [the apology] is not reparations, and it's not action, and there are going to be Caucasians who say, 'Get over it.' . . . I look at it as something that makes people think."

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the resolution's sponsor, said "Slavery and Jim Crow, and their continuing consequences, are not the historical baggage of one state, one region or one company. They are an enduring national shame."

So in response to both Cohen and Harkin, I ask why weren’t any thoughts on the continuing consequences of slavery and Jim Crow included in the resolution? Why didn’t they address specific topics relevant to today’s American citizen that would spark conversation? It appears that this apology has failed to spark productive conversations about race and led to nothing more than the following four comments:
“It’s about time.”
“This apology is meaningless.”
“Why can’t we get over this already?”
“They better not even think about giving reparations.”

I don’t think this is what the Senate was hoping for. To avoid these unproductive conversations, the Senate would have been better served to address the mechanisms through which slavery and Jim Crow have led to a society wrought with racial residential segregation, vast racial disparities in wealth, a prison system filled disproportionately with blacks, etc. These problems are not widely recognized or discussed by our “colorblind” nation that at times fears even publicly acknowledging the color of someone’s skin and truly believes everyone who tries hard has an equal opportunity to become successful. The aforementioned problems cannot be addressed if the majority of society doesn’t even know they exist. The Senate missed out on a great opportunity to begin a productive conversation that could have led to some real change in the racial dynamics of this country.

1 comment:

  1. the title came from seinfeld