Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Apology Long Overdue

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

An Apology Long Overdue

Article excerpt

I recently joined a bipartisan group in proposing that Congress apologize for slavery. The vigorous discussion since then has produced a surprising amount of light, especially for a debate about race.

Little-known facts about slavery are emerging, beliefs rooted in slavery's end are coming out, and we are inviting our nation's children to learn this part of our history in a way that gives it a new vibrancy.

America's history has changed the course of humanity. As slayer of tyrants, advocate of liberty, and defender of freedom, our nation has proven itself time and again. Our history bolsters Americans' pride and bestows upon us the courage to conquer new challenges. The more we know about that history the better - even when the lesson is not one free from blemishes. One of these scars came during the shameful century when United States laws permitted and even encouraged the enslavement of black people. Those laws deemed one race of people the legal property of another. They ensured that many of the hands that built our young nation were not those of full participants, but of men, women, and children often beaten and abused into obeying the tyranny of their "masters." In recent years, our people and our government have been forced to grapple with other scars. Some, such as the Tuskegee medical experiments on innocent black men, touched the lives of scores of Americans. Others, like the forced internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, changed the lives of many thousands more. That we have apologized for these wrongs can neither bring back lives nor make up for the pain of the past. But an apology can do something no other action can do: It can foster the goodwill needed to change the future. In giving those wronged the dignity of an honest admission that our nation was mistaken, it can give us all a measure of healing. …

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