Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Slavery Apology, No; Inheritance Tax Hike, Yes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Slavery Apology, No; Inheritance Tax Hike, Yes

Article excerpt

HEY, MY FELLOW Americans who happen to be black. Sorry about that slavery thing. It was really bad.

There. I've accomplished what the Republican Congress has so far been unwilling to do. I've apologized for slavery.

Admittedly, it might not seem like a heart-felt apology, but that's because I don't really feel responsible for slavery. I could just as well be apologizing to Jewish people for the Holocaust. On my mother's side, we didn't leave Belfast until long after all the slaves had been freed. On my father's side, we fought for the Union against the institution of slavery. Well, let me restate that. We served in the Union Army, but McClellans being McClellans, we didn't serve with any distinction and probably didn't do much fighting. Still, we were there, and wearing the blue. We've got nothing to apologize for. And therein lies the problem with the proposal, now pending in Congress, to apologize for slavery. Very few white people feel responsible. Few of us trace our ancestors back to the plantations of the South, and even those who can probably feel that it was so long ago. . . . So what good is an empty apology? Well, it could be the first step toward reparations. At least, that's the hope of some of the apology supporters. A couple of them are quoted in this week's St. Louis American. The story is headlined, "U.S. Apology Empty Without Reparations." "An apology is a beginning," said Eugene Frison, Midwest representative for the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations. "The next move would be to come up with a slavery settlement." "We are owed reparations and we are owed an apology," said Urban League President James Buford. Not much chance for that first part. Even President Bill Clinton, who likes to feel everybody's pain but also does nonstop polling to gauge the public mood, has already weighed in against the notion of reparations. The sin was committed too long ago, he said. Still, there is a way to get something out of this. It came to me the other night when a friend and I were on a television talk show, taking calls from viewers. Everybody wanted to talk about the notion of an apology. …

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