Saturday, January 20, 2007

Now Here's Some Things That Might Warrant Meaningful Apologies

Was thumbing through Pravda on the Potom..., er, The Washington Post this morning, and read Colbert I. King's column on Monday's comments from Delegate Frank Hargrove. As many know, in an interview published Tuesday in Charlottesville's Daily Progress, Hargrove said slavery ended nearly 140 years ago with the Civil War and added that ''our black citizens should get over it.'' He was also quoted as asking whether "we are going to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ?"

Of course, Hargrove was immediately savaged in the far Left blogosphere and among the race hustlers. After all, group guilt is the other side of the group victimhood coin upon which so many of them rely for their fodder. Never mind that there were a couple of good points there. First, that asking modern Virginians to "apologize" for slavery, as though they were responsible for it, is every bit as ridiculous as suggesting that modern Jews are responsible for Christ's death (at least, any more responsible than anybody else, since Christ died on the cross for the sins of all of us). Or that modern Virginia blacks are in no place to ask for or receive an apology. Both points stem from the same fundamental point: there is not a single living Virginian --- or living person anywhere else --- who is either responsible for or a victim of slavery. Indeed, one economist/columnist --- I don't recall whether it was Walter Williams or Thomas Sowell --- who has noted that modern Black Americans should be thankful that their ancestors were kidnapped from Africa and carried into bondage into America since, as a result, the lives of modern Black Americans are infinitely superior to those of the descendants of those who did not suffer so.

That's not to say that Hargrove's comments were useful, or artfully or effectively rendered. As one blogger has noted:
But even for Blacks, like me, who could care less about an apology and are not holding our breaths for an apology for our ancestors, admonishing Blacks to "get over slavery" is counterproductive to improving race relations and mean-spirited.
In fact, Hargrove's comments are as silly as seeking or offering an apology. No Black citizen of Virginia has anything to "get over" with regard to slavery, since no Black citizen of Virginia alive today was ever a slave (at least, in Virginia, and by virtue of Virginia law). Unfortunately, that same blogger went on to gratuitously claim that "if Hargrove and people of his ilk had their way, African Captivity would still be very much an institution in America," a silly suggestion by any measure. Whatever Hargrove's faults, I am not aware of even the slightest hint that he supports reinstating slavery or Jim Crow. Apparently, this commenter is confusing advocacy of such policies with Hargrove's failure to be sufficiently self-flagellating about historical events for which he was not responsible, and in which he did not participate.

King's column had a point, though probably not the one that he thought it did, or the one that at least one blogosphere denizen identified. After all, King starts by listing his "bona fides," such as they are: "There's nothing quite like going to a county office building down in Culpeper County, Va., and finding evidence of your family's enslavement. I did that several years ago."

Now, I'm all for looking into your family history, since it's important to know where you came from. But it strikes me as singularly ridiculous to suggest that I should spend my time --- or anybody else's --- worrying about and/or becoming resentful of the wrongs perpetrated against my ancestors. Should I resent a hospital in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, because in 1929 by great-grandfather died there of a ruptured appendix? Or a treating doctor of my great-grandmother, who died during the great Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918/19? More pointedly, should I hold responsible the descendants of those responsible?

Frankly, I've got better things to worry about. Or, to paraphrase one editorial noting the need for a bigger couch on "The Apology Circuit" akin to the format we've become accustomed to seeing them in since the days of the late Johnny Carson and Jack Paar of the Tonight Show (host at the trademark desk, with coffee cup and microphone, guests arrayed on a sofa to the host's right), I'm gonna need a lot more time to track down and demand apologies from the descendants responsible for all of the wrongs done to all of my ancestors.

The real point? That there are plenty of racial wrongs for which there are living perpetrators and victims. King is kind enough to list them, but doesn't bother to identify the institutions responsible for them. He does note that Hargrove:
and many white Virginians alive today were present when the spirit of Jim Crow reigned supreme in the Old Dominion.
Wow! That's a pretty damning indictment. Likewise, there are many Germans alive today who were present when the spirit of Naziism reigned supreme in Germany. Many Russians, too, alive today who were present when the spirit of Vladimir Lenin reigned Supreme in the old Soviet Union. Lots of Iraqis alive today who were present when the spirit of Saddam Hussein reigned supreme in Iraq.... Well, you get the point. He goes on to note that:
the Virginia legislature passed a law requiring separate white and black waiting rooms at airports.

Sen. Harry Byrd declared massive resistance to the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown decision desegregating public schools.

the General Assembly passed a series of laws to prevent school desegregation, including a measure forbidding state funds to be spent on integrated schools? That was a memorable year. And the next year, Prince Edward County went to an extreme to protect lily-white education. It closed the school system rather than integrate.

On Feb. 20, 1960, students from the historically black Virginia Union University entered Woolworth's department store on Broad Street in Richmond, sat at the lunch counter and patiently waited to be served. Instead, the management closed the store.

On June 9, 1960, an integrated group of youths sat at a Peoples Drug store lunch counter in Arlington. Waitresses served the whites, then walked away. A few minutes later, the lunch counter was closed.

In 1963, protesters gathered in front of the College Shoppe Restaurant on Main Street in Farmville. Management refused to serve blacks. Sheriff's deputies, in keeping with Virginia's Jim Crow laws, forcibly removed them.

Now, there is a common thread here. It's not just that white Virginians were responsible for these actions, though they assuredly were. After all, there's a fairly good chance that a majority of white Virginians today had nothing to do with it, weren't even Virginians at the time (if, indeed, they were alive), and are repulsed by such behavior.

No, the common thread is in the fact that the state policies identified by King, and of which he rightly complains, were perpetrated by the politicians of the time. And what, to a man (almost exclusively) did they have in common?

They were Democrats, and segregation and racial discrimination were the proud and public policies of the Virginia Democrat Party.

If King and his fellow race hustlers want an apology from live perpetrators for behavior creating live victims, he needs to look elsewhere. King and his fellow race hustlers need to look to the Democrat Party.

And it's more than passing strange that King and his fellow race hustlers are using this issue as a club with which to savage the GOP and its elected office holders, since it was the Republican Party which produced the leaders who ended slavery, and who --- to a degree far greater than Democrats --- supported efforts to end Jim Crow and racial segregation.


Will you guys ever learn said...

Read much? RN's southern strategy rolled out the welcome mat for the Jim Crow crowd to join the GOP. I came of age in Virginia politics watching most of those Byrd machine guys cross over. Their legacy is the sugar in the kool-aid you guys are drinking. Keep it up. I look forward to watching you guys ride this one over the cliff like you did with Allen!

Citizen Tom said...

Good post!

This apology serves no useful purpose. All it does is to help keep the race card alive and well. Unfortunately, there is no good response to it. If we regard the apology is harmless, we invite the request for reparations. If we reject the apology, we are accused of racism.

Perhaps the best response is to laugh at it. Why not ask people demanding this apology a question. Why do YOU need the General Assembly to make apology for ME to YOU?

What has the General Assembly got to do with it? The General Assembly represents all of us, the son and daughters of slaves, the sons and daughters of slaveholders, and a great many people whose forbears had nothing whatsoever to do with slavery in America.

Apology is about contrition. Why do YOU expect a bunch of people to be sorrowful for something that THEY did not do and did not even happen to YOU?

Charles said...

I moved to Virginia in 1981, quite after the end of the Jim Crow era. I was born in the free state of Maryland, and spent my formative years in Connecticutt.

I have a delegate and a senator that represent me in the Virginia legislature. As my representatives, I don't want them to apologize for anything that someone did in Virginia years ago -- it wasn't me, and I've got nothing to apologize for (at least not on this matter).

Hargrove shouldn't be serving. He's too old. Old men say what they think, which is a good thing, but what they think is often less useful. I doubt Hargrove wants slavery, but then again I have no idea if was happier in his prime when there was segregation, or how hard it is for him not to use any of the previously accepted words for blacks that were common while he was growing up.

Hargrove doesn't represent the republican party, and nobody should apologize for what HE said except him, if he feels he said something wrong. I'll happily denounce what he said, but I won't take responsibility for it, I didn't say it, and I didn't even vote for him.

I don't care what good comes from something, there is a far cry from "things turned out OK" to "you should be thankful for the evil that was done to you". So I disagree strongly with statements that blacks should be thanking us for anything, other than maybe thanking the hundreds of thousands of whites who joined with blacks and others and gave their lives to put out country back together and end the chance for slavery in the south. But don't think ME for that, I had nothing to do with it either.

Anybody who is still blaming their own state of living on events from over a hundred years ago doesn't have to get over it, but they would be better off not dwelling on a past they can't change or using it as an excuse for not fixing the real problems of today.

Blacks like Sowell and Williams have the right to say what they want, and have the authority to point out the real issues that effect their communities. They will tell you who owes blacks and apology for their plight today, and it isn't the Virginia legislature.

James Young said...

We've learned quite well, thank you. We've learned that there's nothing that ever quite satisfies the race hustlers and, of course, the "Southern strategy" to which you refer is the caricature of the far Left. But thanks for reading!

Thanks, Tom!

And Charles, Hargrove's qualifications to serve are between him and his constituents, though I would agree with your comments vis-a-vis the GOP.

Terrence said...

James Young, first off, don't come to my blog with your paternalistic attitude. You have no children or slaves there. Your tone will not be tolerated there. I promise you that. If you respond, it had better be in a more respectful tone or don't bother to respond at all.

Secondly, there is no confusion on my part. You are apparently confused. My position pertaining to Hargrove and African Captivity is pure conjecture, which I have every right to do. Just as you do on your blog. I believe Hargrove, like Trent Lott and others, probably want things back to the old way of doing things - minorities in America as subordinates. It's my opinion and I am sticking to it.

There is no room for Hargrove's blatant indifference and ignorance in today's society. Hargrove is an apparent racist and anti-Semite as demonstrated by his own words.

Again, if you respond - make it respectful or your response will be deleted.

Will you guys ever learn said...

The part in all this that I have a hard time understanding is that you guys have turned it into a partisan question. Whether its an apology for slavery or the policies of Jim Crow, the issue should be about the character of action taken under the guise of public authority.

If I read your spin right the fault lies not in the state but political parties? Specifically the Jim Crow era Democratic party? And whatever your revisionist history with respect to Southern politics since the civil rights era where are those Jim Crow Virginia Democrats today? A reminder from today's RTD...

"Yesterday, Hargrove said it was not accurate to cast the Republicans as insensitive, saying he was once a Democrat, which was the party of Massive Resistance."

The merits of the underlying question aside you guys will ride the politics of this "race hustle" language right off the cliff. Keep up the good work!

James Young said...

Uh, WYGEL, "we" haven't turned it into a partisan issue. In fact, it is a non-issue, because the Virginia legislature has utterly nothing to "apologize" for, and no one to apologize to.

As for Hargrove, I can only presume that he left the Democrat Party and became a Republican not because the Democrat Party's policies had changed, but because he grew in office.