Sunday, February 25, 2007

[apologizing] this time it's virginia

1805 portrait of one of the slavers. Is Virginia apologizing on his behalf?

The Virginia General Assembly voted yesterday to issue a statement of "profound regret" over the state's role in slavery. Missouri lawmakers are considering a similar resolution. The measure passed in Virginia 96-0 and had a unanimous vote in the Senate as well.

Which part of their history are they actually apologizing for?

1] In 1619 Virginia had no law of slavery and the arrivals became "servants." They went to work in tobacco fields alongside other servants who were white and had come from England. Conditions were equally hard for both groups, but servitude could end. On the other hand, the blacks were there under duress and the whites were not.

2] Between 1667 and 1672 the General assembly enacted legislation which increasingly defined a Virginian's status by skin color.

3] The slave trade lasted almost 200 years, until the importation of slaves was officially prohibited in 1808 by Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution.

How far are descendants of one group of legislators obliged to apologize and those of another group not obliged? What of the families of the slavers? To whom, precisely, are they apologizing? The ghosts of the poor slaves? What result will it achieve?

Is all this recent national apologizing a good thing? When will Britain finally apologize for William of Normandy who played a low trick by coming over before Harold was ready?


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

If a whole group of people have been abused then I suppose an apology may be of some comfort to their descendants. I am thinking perticularly of the pardon and inclusion on war memorials last week of the 2 British soldiers shot for "cowardice" in WW1. If that helps their families, then that's OK with me. And the last Pope apologising for the Vatican's failure to help the Jews in WW2 was, I think, needed. But you do begin to wonder where all this will stop. I don't think the scene you picture in your last sentence is so far-fetched!

Mark Adams said...

When will Britain finally apologize for William of Normandy who played a low trick by coming over before Harold was ready?

Shouldn't the French be apologising to us?

Sissy Willis said...

These PC apologies are all about the apologizers . . . It helps them feel "good about themselves." Pathetic. Oprah's on. :-)

Andrew Allison. A Conservative View said...

All of this apologising is getting out of hand. What has happened, has happened. The important point to make is we learn the lessons of history and try not to repeat mistakes. In this year of celebrating the life of William Wilberforce, I am not going to apologise for slavery. It had nothing to do with me; it is in the past and that is where it will stay.