Sorry seems to be the hardest word
My husband and I disagree.
He feels Virginia does not need to apologize for slavery. He believes the eradication of slavery and the change to the U.S. Constitution reflecting it were the most concrete acknowledgement of wrongdoing a country can offer. Game over. He's an "actions-speak-louder-than-words" guy in all areas. But of course I am a word person and I say, let’s go ahead and apologize. Words and gestures are meaningful and they can help heal us all, even those who have no connection to slavery whatsoever. At the very least, I don’t see how apologizing could hurt anything. Reasonable people can certainly see this in different ways and I do consider my husband and myself to be reasonable people. (There are times of course when he puts that to the test, like the other night when … oh, well, never mind.)
Anyway, the problem with an issue like this one in which the great Commonwealth of Virginia is on the brink of making history by becoming the first state to ever apologize for slavery, is that it is so filled with emotion that reason must fight to be heard. Emotion belongs in this argument; it does. But if you read some of the comments coming out about the slavery apology it’s clear that emotion also dredges up a lot of awful stuff -- prejudice, indignation, resentment, bitterness and weary apathy.
Slavery may be a dead institution but you needn’t look any further than Sen. Joseph Biden’s bone-headed remark about Sen. Barack Obama to know that we still have a tremendous race problem in this country. He can say he meant “fresh” instead of “clean” all he wants, but to me that exposed the worst kind thinking that some white people still hold about black people. And Del. Frank Hargrove’s remarks just show a blinding ignorance to the world around him. And on the other end of the spectrum is the fact that in this presidential campaign, Obama is likely to receive a pass by some of the harsher critics -- and by that I mean the late-night comics and Jon Stewart -- partly because he is black. And in the midst of all this parsing of Biden's comment you have Al Sharpton being held up as a former presidential candidate who is highly articulate. Meanwhile, I'm watching him last night on MSNBC butcher the English language (including saying “conscrew” for “construe”) but who, exactly, is going to call him inarticulate? Who’s got the guts to say, “That guy is inarticulate. It has nothing to do with his being black. He’s just inarticulate.”
We have a problem, friends. It is not something one group or another can just “get over.” And no one thinks an apology is going to fix anything when there is inequality at nearly every level of American life. Of course, I wouldn't want an apology if it came from someone with a stone in his throat. There are a lot of people out there who echo Hargrove's remarks -- I've done nothing to apologize for. Well, no one is asking you to apologize. No one is asking me to apologize. This is coming from the Commonwealth of Virginia for the wrong it did. Where is the harm in that?