A state apology for slavery would acknowledge “the most fundamental sin in Delaware’s long history”

Posted January 24th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , ,
Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of the many enslaved who escaped to freedom through Delaware

Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of the many enslaved who escaped to freedom through Delaware

We can now add Delaware to the list of U.S. states where there is a popular movement to finally acknowledge the history of slavery and, perhaps, to apologize for that history.

The story until this month: in 2010, the Dover City Council passed a resolution, at the urging of the city’s human rights commission, asking the state legislature to apologize for slavery and Jim Crow. Since that time, no member of the Delaware General Assembly has been willing to put forward such a resolution.

Since January 1, however, there has emerged a movement in Delaware to have the governor issue pardons to three Delaware abolitionists who were convicted in the 19th century of aiding enslaved people along the Underground Railroad.

In response, historian Samuel B. Hoff of Delaware State University, who was chair of the Dover Human Relations Commission in 2010, is calling for the public to capitalize on the current momentum to address the state’s racial past, not on pardoning a handful of abolitionists for their crimes, but by finally acknowledging that these should never have been crimes: that state laws supporting slavery “were themselves morally bankrupt.”

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Will Mississippi finally offer an apology for slavery?

Posted January 13th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , ,

This is the season for state legislatures to consider whether to finally offer an apology for their role in slavery and racial discrimination, as eight states in the North and South have seen fit to do in recent years.

On Friday, we reported on the apology bill which has been filed in the new session of Georgia’s House of Representatives. That resolution would express the Georgia General Assembly’s “profound regret” for the state’s historic role in slavery.

This morning, we have word that an apology resolution has been filed in the Mississippi State Legislature by Rep. Willie Perkins (D-Greenwood).

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Will Georgia finally apologize for slavery?

Posted January 9th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , ,

Georgia state representative Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta)The last time we provided an update here on the effort to have U.S. states to apologize for their role in slavery and racism, we reported that the Tennessee House of Representatives had voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution which would have expressed “profound regret” for the state’s part in slavery and segregation. This was back last spring, and despite the fact that the state legislature’s lower chamber had softened the resolution’s language, which originally would have offered “profound apologies,” the state senate ignored the resolution. As a result, the proposal will expire next week, when the Tennessee General Assembly convenes for another term.

However, in the new year, there is another active effort to have a state apologize for slavery, this time in Georgia. We first reported about this on social media last month, when Georgia state representative Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) announced that in January, at the start of the legislative session, he would press for an apology for the state’s role in slavery and Jim Crow.

Brooks’ resolution, which is designated H.R. 3 and which can be found here, would have Georgia’s General Assembly express its “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery, “atone” for that history, and call for “reconciliation among all Georgians.”

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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). []

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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