This article was orginally published on March 27,2007
Many states such as Georgia and Maryland are considering following in the footsteps of Virginia, whose General Assembly has passed a resolution in which they apologized for the state’s role in slavery and the Jim Crow era. At the federal level, Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives for a national apology. After all, the national government has made apologies for the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, so why not African-Americans?
It is long overdue. This leads to the question: Should Alabama follow suit and acknowledge their involvement in the demeaning treatment of fellow human beings hundreds of years ago, which unfortunately helped shaped this nation’s history and culture, especially considering that other states that took part in slavery are considering this act.
In fact, I can picture this ceremony right now. I can imagine it taking place in the Magazine Point neighborhood in north Mobile, which is where the last slave ship, the Clotilda, unloaded its slaves. Attending the ceremony would be the governor, members of the NAACP, Martin Luther King’s children, radio personality Tom Joyner, Al Sharpton and members of all the major newspapers and television media outlets. Okay, a girl can dream. Either way, the act of apology would be great, but there are some things that have to be taken care of first before this can occur.
Since the act of slavery did unfortunately help to shape attitudes toward those of a different race that are still prevalent in the 21st century, the apology for slavery would come with definite conflict from those who would not agree to such. So first, the attitudes of people would have to change. This is not going to happen overnight. Second, there is the lengthy Alabama Constitution of 1901, which is a pretty controversial document itself for reasons. We need genuine constitution reform.
When it comes to relations dealing with those of a different skin color, the Alabama State Constitution Section 256 still states that separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race. In this day in age, schools in Alabama are pretty diverse in ethnic nature, including this university. So why has this not be repealed or at least amended? The ban on interracial marriage was annulled by Amendment 667. Then there are those who would argue that since the people actually responsible for slavery are long deceased, the people of the present should not have to apologize for what they are not responsible for. Yes this is true; however, there are still wounds that that have not been healed from the effects of slavery that are evident in today’s society.
To help amend these wounds, an apology should be made by any states that had a significant role in slavery. But considering that the apology has not yet come, it seems as if one is not going to come, unless some other things are taken care of first.