Saturday, May 25, 2024

THE SAGA CONTINUES: Some Blacks Joining the Darkside on Apology for Slavery?

March 29, 2007 by  
Filed under Weekly Columns

       Do people realize how rare this is?

      ( On March 8th of this year I wrote in my column, The Saga Continues, an op-ed piece called Is Virginia’s apology for slavery significant and how could it affect the national debate.

      Though written with a select audience in mind, the selection caught the attention of conservative talk radio host Ron Smith of WBAL-AM in Baltimore, Maryland.  The gentleman’s producer subsequently contacted me and arranged to have me on his show. 

      Despite what my wife occasionally tells me, I guess I do make some sense to some folks some of the time.  Though his views were in large part contrary to my own, Mr. Smith was very complimentary of my work and allowed me to get a word in edge wise.  Which was cool because I expected to be blitzed Rush Limbaugh-style. 

      Some White folks called in and were very genuine in the questions they asked and respected my answers and I am very gracious for Mr. Smith for giving me the opportunity.  This was a pleasant surprise to be certain.  But it was the Black callers who were buggin!

     On Tuesday, March 27, Mr. Smith had me on his show for a second time to discuss the issue.  I fully expected the Black callers to be all in on Maryland being the second state in this great Union to apologize for slavery.  Afterwards I realized the only thing I should expect is death and taxes. Ron Smith, while having no problem with the idea of an apology in itself, said he felt all the apologizing was dredging up bad blood and could cause slavery to fade from the natural debate by cheapening it to a certain extent if the apology is made federal.  I of course vehemently disagree, but it’s his show. (shrug)  The fact that an individual of his political conviction would give one such as me a platform did shatter some myths I had long harbored regarding the right. 

     One commonality between the two interview sessions was the view some of the African-American listeners of the show had toward the idea of apologizing for slavery.  Several callers, one especially so, were upset over the idea of apologizing for slavery and not for the Jim Crow Laws and the pain and humiliation caused by them.  The callers, as if speaking in a single voice, stated that slavery was not the issue for them.  Jim Crow is!  They stated that they and many of their loved ones had lived and suffered through it, and not slavery.  They could remember Jim Crow, but could not remember slavery because they were not alive. 

     I felt where the individuals were coming from, but I also feel this viewpoint is childish at best, and downright selfish at its worst.  You mean to say because slavery did not personally happen to YOU that it doesn’t matter?  In addition, it leads right into what every right winger in country says when the idea of reparations is brought up.  Ok everybody, say it with me now “I didn’t have anything to do with slavery.  I wasn’t even alive!”  The generations that suffered through the horrendous Jim Crow apparatus can thank slavery for its inception, but some how the African American callers to the Ron Smith Show missed this.  Again, if it were not for the institution of slavery there would never have been a single Jim Crow Law!

     Upon some deep thought on the matter I realized something that troubled me deeply when realized.  If the callers on the show are any indicator then, Lord help me, some African Americans feel that slavery actually did us a favor by bringing us to this prosperous country.  “No,” I thought, but it’s true.  Some people do not care about an apology for slavery because it was the vehicle by which the vast majority of our ancestors arrived in this country.  But does that mean it should be excused?  Surely not y’all!  It appears as though we’re putting the horse before the carriage here. 

     Each time these individuals called into the show Ron, doing what talk radio hosts do, expertly steered individuals toward his viewpoint on Jim Crow by inserting a word or two into some callers’ stream of speech as they were trying to make their point.  Amazingly, each caller would take the word as his or her own thought and continue. 

      Another thought occured to me as well. One I did not have time to explore during the conversation.  It seems as though the pains suffered under Jim Crow were done to Black Americans, while slavery was done to African Slaves.  This, coupled with Jim Crow not being that far gone, appears to be the catalyst for this line of thinking. 

      So what now?  Do we ask for an apology for Jim Crow as well?  How redundant would that be?  But guess what?  An apology for Jim Crow would get similar resistance from the White majority and create division within the Black community as well. 

      The callers, though genuine, were a shock to me.  How could we forget our great, greats were treated like dogs!  “Oh, I ain’t no African.  I was disgraced in Selma!”  Is the gist of what they were saying.  That saddened me a great deal.  I woke my 6 month old son from his nap and gave him a big hug to just to make myself feel better and to put things back in perspective.  “We are so split on everything,” I said aloud.  He cooed and just starred at me.  We’re split as Americans, as Blacks and even as families. 

      But I must add that discourse is part of the democratic process and this is allegedly the world’s most successful democracy.  I know of no other because I have lived in no other.  But at times all the chatter seems to be for naught even though I know the dialectic in democracies moves toward a positive end, but damn!  Now I know why Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader.  I feel like sometimes people do not know what’s good for them and need to be forced to comply.  That sentence is probably the most un-American phrase I have ever written.  But whether it be good or bad I really wish we would unite on something. I’m just sayin’ though, how could a Black person really disagree with an apology for slavery?  Chances are you are not getting anything else.

By Ricardo Hazell

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