Tennessee weighs an apology for slavery

Posted April 16th, 2014 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , ,

Formerly enslaved Tennesseans and their descendants, c. 1890Yesterday, we reported on our Twitter and Facebook accounts that the Tennessee House of Representatives had voted, 97-0, in favor of a resolution expressing “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery and racial segregation—but only after stripping the resolution of its original language offering “profound apologies” for this history.

This move by one chamber of the Tennessee General Assembly to express regret for slavery and discrimination follows a wave of such actions by states between 2007 and 2009, culminating in a failed attempt by the U.S. Congress to apologize for the nation’s role in slavery. And while this action comes several years later than the others, it fits the established pattern for such expressions of remorse.

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The argument against fairness

Posted January 14th, 2013 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: , , ,

Stephen T. Asma, Against Fairness (2012)Philosopher Stephen T. Asma is causing quite a stir these days with his new book, Against Fairness.

The crux of Asma’s argument is that favoritism, and not fairness or egalitarianism, ought to guide our morality and our civic life. His philosophy welcomes such modern, democratic values as compassion and the fight against prejudice, while urging us to reject liberalism’s belief in meritocracy and the equal worth of all persons. Instead, Asma would have us embrace our instinct to prefer, and to preferentially support, the members of our “tribes”—those we feel close to by reason of blood, social relationships, or such markers as religion, social class, or cultural affinity.

This philosophical approach represents a major challenge to those who believe that our society can, and should, work to overcome bias of all kinds, expanding the circles1 of those we consider “us” until we become, as Asma puts it, “one giant tribe.”

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  1. See Peter Singer, The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress (1981). []
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Exploring “White in America”

Posted December 11th, 2012 by
Category: History, Living consequences, Race and Ethnicity Tags: , , , ,

Update: On Monday, December 17, our Katrina Browne will appear on “Huff Post Live” at 12:30 ET to discuss the topic of “White in America,” in a segment entitled “Is It Time To Ask What Being White Means?

This weekend, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien debuted the fifth installment of her provocative series, Black in America. This time, in “Who is Black in America?”, O’Brien explores the nuances of racial self-identification in the United States, as well as the pressures put on individuals by the ways others categorize them.

The episode raises such difficult questions as whether there is a separate bi-racial identity in this country, or whether those of mixed black and white ancestry may, or must, self-identify simply as “black.” (For more, see Cheryl Contee’s essay at Jack & Jill Politics.)

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When, if ever, should white people use the N-word?

Posted October 3rd, 2012 by
Category: Living consequences Tags: ,

Hip-hop artist Head-Roc has written a provocative essay in the Huffington Post about the use of the N-word by white people, entitled, “When the N-word Strikes in Chocolate City.”

In the essay, Head-Roc writes about being at a party and meeting a white guest who casually referred to him with the N-word. Interestingly, Head-Roc doesn’t assume this white person is bigoted, or reflects a white subculture where such language is still considered appropriate in casual conversation. Instead, he sees something very different in his fellow party-goer:

He is the progressive white guy at the parties who thinks he is so down and in tune with every aspect of the black experience in America to the point where he thinks he can comfortably say and use the word “nigger” in a black person’s presence.

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Why don’t black Americans swim?

Posted April 11th, 2012 by
Category: Living consequences Tags: , ,

Photo from BBC News storyJames DeWolf Perry is the Tracing Center’s executive director. This entry is cross-posted from James’ own blog, The Living Consequences, and the opinions expressed are his own.

Why don’t black Americans swim?

This is the provocative headline of a BBC News story, and it would be easy to misinterpret the BBC’s meaning. This is, after all, a sweeping generalization, and one which has been a racial stereotype in the United States for many generations.

However, the BBC reporter cites credible statistics to support the widely-held belief that swimming is, in fact, nowhere near as common among black Americans as it is among white Americans.

More importantly, the article argues that this situation arises out of the nation’s painful legacy of slavery and race and has deadly consequences.

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