Congressional apology for slavery was completely illogical

AUGUST 13, 2008

When the House of Representatives issued a formal apology for slavery last month, it wasn’t the least bit surprising. In this age of identity politics and political correctness, such behavior is never a shock, no matter how ridiculous or unjustified.

American slavery is a funny business. Not because it has long ceased to exist, but because it still exists in the minds of those who can’t decide whether its memory is too hard to bear or too profitable to bury. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and others would not have careers if they did not have an eternal chip on their shoulders and were against exploiting the fact that there’s nothing perhaps that weighs more on the modern man’s conscience than the notion of owning another.

But in reality the wagging finger of today’s slave drivers has more to do with politically correct fashion than logic — Sharpton, Jackson, and company completely ignore the slavery that exists in modern Africa, yet they can’t stop talking about an institution that’s been long gone in America.

Things have gotten so absurd that even alleged symbols of slavery like the Confederate flag are considered so offensive that major retailers often refuse to stock merchandise featuring them. Meanwhile, these same stores gladly stock merchandise that very well may have been made by actual slaves.

As is always the case with identity politics, conventional notions of fairness always take a backseat to racial one-sidedness. For all the hubbub over the "evil" white man, has any black leader ever demanded an apology from today’s West Africans for their ancestor’s actions? Americans and Europeans could have never profited from slavery without the assistance of African slave traders, but this glaring fact is never mentioned.

For those who believe that the War for Southern Independence was fought purely over slavery, a notion as simplistic as reducing the war in Iraq to a war for oil, does anyone ever think to thank the 600,000 white men who died fighting to end human bondage on American soil? No, because it serves no purpose.

If it were not for the white West, slavery likely wouldn’t have been abolished as soon, if at all. British imperialism in the 18th and 19th centuries gave the West the leverage to eradicate slavery, while Africans, Arabs, and Asians fought bitterly to preserve the profitable institution. Can we expect a big, sloppy kiss from Congress in the near future, thanking white folks for their hard work? No, because there is no political gain or ax to grind by congratulating dead white men.

Slavery has been the norm throughout human history, not the exception.

Who exactly had a hand in this dirty business is better understood through the eyes of historians, not politicians. There is no good reason for anyone living today, black or white, to apologize for slavery.

Being sorry that something happened is not the same as apologizing for it, which implies guilt on the part of the apologist. It is one thing for me to be sorry that a friend might be getting divorced; it’s quite another to apologize for the divorce considering the fact that I had nothing to do with it. It’s nonsensical. The collective guilt argument (generations removed, no less) simply doesn’t wash. White Americans should not feel the least bit of guilt over slavery, any more than black Americans should feel guilty over their own ancestors’ transgressions.

Using the logic of identity politics, one could just as easily make the case that black Americans owe white Americans an apology for today’s high black crime rate — a very real problem that affects people living in the present — yet accusations of "racism" would fly at the mere suggestion. But then again, it is the threat of being called "racist" that compels our leaders to do all sorts of goofy things these days.

There’s no reason to believe the men and women on Capitol Hill who bowed at the altar of political correctness last month to apologize for sins they or their constituents never committed will be able to do anything to appease today’s unforgiving "slave drivers." For Sharpton, Jackson, and their ilk, no apology will ever do.

© Copyright 2008, Charleston City Paper

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