Monday, June 05, 2006

Apology + Apathy = 0

For starters, please forgive the graphic image. But, our nation's history has never been pretty...

At any rate, I was listening to NPR the other day and the argument about an official 'apology' for lynching came up. One of the guests was Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA); who has become well known for openly supporting a national apology for lynching. Normally, I'm not a fan of politicians, but, I have to give it up to her and Senator George Allen (R-VA) who -- inspired by horrific images of lynchings -- organized an effort to procure an apology from the Senate to the families of lynching victims. This act was to make up for the Senate's historic failure to pass anti-lynching legislation when the practice was more commonplace and widely accepted.

Senators Landrieu and Allen have starting to realize something that most African-Americans have known for years: we need to fully expose the shameful past of this nation and recognize its shortcomings before we can all progress. It's time to pull off the sheets of the past (no pun intended). We can start by exposing the raw and unembellished truths.

Lynching was nothing more than a non-sanctioned, domestically practiced form of terrorism; violent scare tactics used to keep Blacks as a subservient underclass. There's no telling how many blacks had land and assets stolen from them or how many blacks had to curtail educational and professional dreams out of fear that their dreams and aspirations would leave them dangling in a tree or burning to a stake. Don't get me wrong, many lynchings came from Blacks who looked at white women the wrong way or who were defiant 'troublemakers' (not saying that those are any better or justifiable). But, we can't discount the lynchings that resulted in economic theft or those that were done out of fear of the black man's potency. How much of our nation's wealth and acquisition was obtained by greedily coveting and stealing from the Blakc man? It's hard to tell; mainly since history books have never really underscored this shameful component of our past. History has never documented all the land and property that was "acquired" or its costs in human lives.

There's a great book out there, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, that captures the nature of lynchings in photos that were frozen in time. As this book shows, lynchings were -- if you can believe this -- social outings, public spectacles, and celebrations. White men brought their families, food and drink, and had a grand ole time. They didn't barbecue burgers and hotdogs; they barbecued humans. They didn't just hang out with each other; they hung men. Some people would even go as far as to collect 'souvenirs' from the lynchings; a finger, an eyeball, a tooth; whatever was available.

Even though seven different administrations urged Congress to end lynching, the Senate stayed quiet about the issue. I think that it's important to note that at least the House of Representatives took initiative to pass three different anti-lynching bills. But, knowing that the Senate remained dormant during these discussions is unnerving. Since the anti-lynching bills never made it passed the Senate floor, the government was essentially left powerless to suppress the violence behind lynching. In fact, Senator Richard Russell (D-GA); after whom the Russell Senate Office Building is currently named; actually considered any actions against lynching as an insult to Southern heritage! Do you believe that?!

Very disturbing...

Don't get me wrong: I'm grateful that the Senate finally wised up and offered an apology (even if it was, as Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) called it "long overdue"). But, there are still some issues here that disturb me. For instance, why wasn't this apology fully supported by everyone in the Senate? Why is it that neither of Mississippi's senators, Trent Lott or Thad Cochran, supported the Senate's decision, especially since Mississippi has historically been more guilty of lynching than any other state? Why was this vote conducted during an evening session instead of during the day's roll-call vote? Was it that some senators didn't want to openly comment on our nation's shameful history while the cameras were rolling?

Perhaps the biggest question for me is: since Congress (most of them, anyway) recognize and apologize for the shameful history of this nation, what do they plan to do about it? An apology doesn't mean a thing unless you're willing to put more tangible actions behind it. Since the late 80's, my state Representative John Conyers (D-MI) has suggested that Congress form a committee to examine the effects of past racial discrimination to black generations of the present. This includes analyzing the impact of slavery, Jim Crowism, lynchings, and how reparations would benefit blacks. But, as if it's a surprise, Conyers has received very little Congressional support. On the one hand, I accept the fact that our nation is facing all sorts of difficult and troubling issues, stemming from war, the economy, rising health care costs, corruption, Social Security, etc. But, Congress doesn't need to patronize us with some hollow and worthless apologetic gesture unless they are willing to back it up with corrective action.

What do you get when you mix apology with apathy?



16 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

j. alex said...

Maybe I'm just some white liberal with a cause, but I think that the sooner than blacks accept how messed up the world is (I agree with you in your assessment, by the way), the sooner they can move on and "progress". The disadvantages suffered by Blacks should be the catalyst for building communities, developing a strong political voice, etc.

I think that it's time to stop using the past as an excuse and move forward.

Andre said...

I agree with you to an extent. I don't think that blacks today should COMPLETELY use the past as an excuse for what's going on today. Slavery doesn't make you have five babies before you turn 20. But, you can't dismiss the fact that history has created or contributed to many of the social, economic, and political disparities that impact the lives of minorities today.

And, I'm sorry, but the "turn the other check" mentality doesn't work. I think that G. Bernard Shaw put it best when he said "The rational man adapts himself to the world. The irrational adapts the world to himself. Therefore, all progress is contingent on the irrational man." Simply put: it takes someone who REFUSES to accept the conditions of the world to lead the efforts to change it; not those who sit back idly (i.e. Congress).

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

my Greeneyed handsome man , I hear in my head Billy Holidays verson of STRANGE FRUIT playing while looking at that pic , the world should weep when it reads of such horrors of History .It makes me feel deep , how could one human do this to another let alone the amount of Human lives were consumed in anger ,devistated and marred to this day . God help us all and protect us from History repeating itself .

Not A Republican said...

Andre, How come you delted my other post! I said that I was glad that you were feeling better! :(

Anywho, I agree with you on this post. J. Alex, have you ever read "The mis-education of the Negro" by Carter G Woodson? This book would help explain why the pain and sufferings of Blacks has not served as a catalyst. When you're trained to walk through the back door, even when when there is no back door, you'll create one........

thehc said...

Hey Andre,
I'm going to handle this as delicately as I know how, for I am of two feelings about it and it is a sensitive issue. First feeling. It is with deepest regret that I have the misfortune of being part of a race that ever practiced such an obvious wrongdoing. I'm at once discussed and ashamed. Second feeling. I, along with ALOT of my white friends would be among the first to stand against such an abomination. There always was, and still are, white people both in government and outside, fighting to make things fairer. Therefore, I don't know if I want to be part of an apology for something that I NEVER did or would never support. Maybe we should apologize for not fighting harder? I could except that. But don't forget that white people caught defending blacks sometimes paid high prices too. It's not as cut and dry as you sometimes want to portray it.

thehc said...

*disgusted not discussed, damn my dyslexia. Also, kudo's on another well written piece. Even when I question your philosophy I still love your wordplay.

monique said...

Being that I am of mixed race, I wanted to put my two cents in......

After viewing the picture you post, along with all the other pictures I've seen, I can't help but get angry. I get angry at the fact that hidden racism still exist today. I get angry at the fact that my father would have probably gotten killed for dating my mother (back in the those times). Sure, we african-americans shouldn't use our mistreatment as an excuse for not progressing, but I do believe that it SHOULD NOT BE FORGOTTEN. If anything, it should be used for motivation to NEVER let it be the way it use to be again.

Andre said...

@ green-eyed: I've always LOVED this poem/song. It's use of juxtaposition is incredible...and sad. I completely agree with you. I can only pray that these autrocities don't find a way to repeat themselves. It starts with loving others and educating ourselves.

Thanks for your comments! Have fun at the cabin..

@ not a republican: I'm sorry. What post are you talking about that I deleted? I don't delete people's comments. The only exception is when I delete my own comments (because of typos, inaccurate statements, etc.). Whatever you had to say, please feel free to repost. Your comments are ALWAYS welcomed...

Secondly: Good way to pull out Dr. Woodson. "Miseducation..." is one the most important pieces of literature EVER (not just within the African-American genre; but PERIOD!). Thanks for sharing MAD knowledge with us!

By the way: I'm not really feeling better. But, I'm getting through it all without losing my sanity. Thanks for your concern...

@ HC: Hey Hipster? What's up with ya? First off, thanks for your comments. I'm sure that most whites regret, abhor, and are disgusted by the past...just as much as minoriites are. I'm not denying that at all. But, I'm sorry...the "Don't look at me. I didn't do it" line won't work in this situation. It CAN'T work. Because, no matter how much you deflect blame on the mindless bigots of the past, you're a part of that group...if for no other reason; because your skin is of the same hue. Is it fair? Of course not? But, is it likely to say that you have the opportunity to capitalize on being white in America? Yes it is. Granted, many whites in this country are not DIRECT beneficiaries of racism. I mean, if I'm not mistaken, you were raised on the north side of Flint. But, that doesn't dismiss the fact that carrying a "white card" has its privileges. (By the way, most "nigger lovers" during Jim Crowism DIDN'T suffer the same fate as blacks. Just thought you'd like to know that...)

All that being said, I truly appreciate it when whites recognize the privilege that they have and they use that knowledge in their fight against racism. It's refreshing to see whites fighting for a cause that benefits another race. Minorities fighting for themselves doesn't have the same weight as whites fighting for them.

Thanks for your comments. I loved your last post, by the way.

@ Monique: You hit it right on the head. Racism, though not as overt as it once was, is still around today. That said, it's a lesson that we need to constantly be reminded of and one that we should constantly remind OTHERS of.

As the old addage goes, "If you don't learn from the past, you're doomed to repeat it..."

Thanks for your incredible comments!

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Greeneyed bandit
Thanks , You would love it , at least I think, getting away from the concrete jungle,noise ,pollution,sounds of ocean waves ,salt water breeze etc ,So many miles away tis a shame , well, I will bring you in my thoughts :)pics on my blog if you want to see the view .
By the way hope your feeling better and your PAIN is gone , or at least resolved
take care

Andre said...

@ green: I'm so jealous of you! I would love the opportunity to get away from it all. While I wouldn't say that things are as bad for me here (I live in a small city so it's not exactly a concrete jungle), I think that I'm in need of an escape right now. So, at the very least, I'll have fun vicariously through you!

Secondly, I wouldn't say that I'm feeling better, but I'm getting there. My issues haven't necessarily been resolved, but I did decide to stick my sword in the ground and walk away. But, much to my chagrin, it looks like ANOTHER equally as difficult 'issue' is starting to brew for me. I just can't seem to get away from agony.

You know what they say: "When it rains, it pours..."

Have fun, young lady!

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Hey My greeneyed handsome man
I thought you lived in a large city , well I guess from where I sit it is large LOL. I guess you would like to get away , maybe when you finish school.
It is too bad that things are not going as smooth as you would like right now , I know when it rains it pours , but think of the beautiful rainbows afterwards.......Too Polyanna for you ?
Life is full of struggle, each of us share that , I will keep you in my prayers and wish you peace of mind . I bet you have woman trouble!!!!!!! too many , not enough time ??????you are a real smoothie , let me guess they are all fighting over you :-) They should be !
Hopefully things will change soon and if not , you can change it or at least try . Sorry to be off topic on your post , just cant stay away :-0) .Relax and have some fun, have a good weekend , take care , be safe Andre .

J. Alex said...

"not a republican": (nice name!) I've also read "Miseducation" (as a part of one of the Africana Studies classes I took as an undergrad...a liberating experience let me tell you). But, I don't see the connection to this post. Would you care to enlighten me?

Andre, you mentioned that Rep. Conyers wanted to examine how reparations would fix the situations facing minorities. While I also like Conyers and think he's got great points, how exactly do you think reparations would be successful? One, how can you determine who gets what? Secondly, is passing out money REALLY the way to atone for the sins of the past? I'm curious to hear what you have to say on this.

Andre said...

@ J. Alex: When people refer to the idea of reparations, I don't think they're talking about "passing out money". At least, not to individuals.

One, as you mentioned, it's too difficult to quantify appropriations; 'who gets what'. Also, as you said, money alone doesn't make up for our nation's shameful history.

But, reparations -- as a practical concept -- are federal funds devoted to creating and sustaining social and economic programs that bridge the inequality gaps in this country. Simply put: the government needs to use funds that they would 'pass out', toward building communities, improving schools, and creating opportunities that have been dematerialized or completely wiped out for minorities because of the existence of racism and classism.

I think that it's unfortunate that the concept of reparations has been reduced to -- as you put it -- passing out money. It goes much deeper than that.

"Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime"

Not a republican said...

J Alex,

Sorry about the lateness in responding to your comment! The reason why I threw in Carter G Woodson's "the Mis-Education of the Negro" is because you stated that you don't understand why what Blacks have been threw doesn't serve as a catalyst for building communities, devolping a strong political voice, etc.

"Maybe I'm just some white liberal with a cause, but I think that the sooner than blacks accept how messed up the world is (I agree with you in your assessment, by the way), the sooner they can move on and "progress". The disadvantages suffered by Blacks should be the catalyst for building communities, developing a strong political voice, etc."

Part of the reason is because of the "slave mentatily" that is talked about in the book, hence "When you're trained to walk through the back door, even when there is no back door, you'll create one"

In an "everything makes sense world" those issues WOULD serve as a catalyst. For some Blacks, it DOES serve as a catalyst. For us, as a whole, the brainwashing that has gone on over the past few hundred years has taken over and Blacks simply haven't responded in the most positive way.

This is what Carter G Woodson was trying to dispell in his book, hence the title, "Mis-Education"


Hope I clarified!

Andre said...

@ J. Alex: As Not a Republican so eloquently mentioned, I think it's important to recognize the precipiating events in our history that contribute to some of the destructive behaviors of Black people.

Plus, as I've stated before, slavery, lynchings, Jim Crowism, etc. were as much a result of keeping Blacks subservient and docile as it was a "punishment" for being different. When you enslave an entire generation, steal their assets, objectify their women, indoctrinate them with a belief in their own inferiority, and negatively accentuate their history and culture, then what you eventually create is a generation full of destructive people.

When will this country stop apologizing for history and start fixing today's world?!

Anonymous said...

Super color scheme, I like it! Good job. Go on.