A friend who happens to be white recently asked me if it really mattered to me that states like Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia were apologizing for slavery. He sincerely wanted to know. He’s liberal but just didn’t get the psychic significance.

That’s because none of his relatives were slaves.

My response was that seriously, America could apologize to me every day and I would enjoy that. Just a daily email or automated robocall sent out from the United States of America that says: “We’re really sorry. Just…for all of it. A lot of things happened that were bad. We officially shoulder much of the blame for it or for failing to stop it. And we’re sorry. Really. Very sorry about what happened and its daily, lingering effects on you.”

You don’t have to go back far, particularly for boomers, to get to slavery’s personal impact. On my father’s side: his grandfather was a slave. On my mother’s side, you have to go back only one more generation to her great-grandfather. Certainly much of the Greatest Generation knew their parents and grandparents’ sad past of enslavement. It just really wasn’t that long ago folks that slavery and the institutionalized, government-sanctioned policy of segregation that followed it were the societal norm.

It’s actually not easy to hear stories about slavery times. Black people just look away and shake their heads. It was a bad time.

So yes, I do value and appreciate the University of Virginia’s recognition of its past and its apology for wrongdoing. From the article:

Slaves in Virginia helped build some of the first buildings at University of Virginia, which opened in 1825, and the university continued to use slave labor for four decades after that.

“The board expresses its particular regret for the employment of enslaved persons in these years,” the resolution reads. It says “the notion of involuntary servitude is repugnant and incompatible with the ideals upon which this university was founded.”

The resolution declares that the board is recommitting itself to the principle of equality.

“It is very important to us … not just to look back but recognize the commitment of the administration that all types of people are treated fairly for now and in the future,” said university Rector Thomas F. Farrell II.

Yet, there is a way for the university to make amends. Only 9% of its students are African-American according to the article, yet the population of African-Americans in Virginia stands at over 20% and growing.

That’s why affirmative action is still seen as important to minorities. What’s missing from this article is UVA’s committment to helping some of the descendants of those who built the university for free under coercion to attend — for free.

Related Posts with Thumbnails