Sunday, March 11, 2007

Yes, Georgia should apologize for slavery.

And it shouldn't stop there:

"It is time for Georgia, as one of the major stakeholders in slavery, as one of the major players in lynchings, to say it's sorry," said state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta. "Sorry for the fact that it was involved in slave trade, sorry for the fact that it was involved in Jim Crow laws."

"If the capital of the Confederate states can lead the way in issuing an apology, then surely all of the other states that maintained slavery can consider doing the same," said Brooks, who is president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials.

The proposal, which is expected to be unveiled in the next few days, could also go a step beyond an expression of regret, said Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"By asking Georgia to apologize for its role, we're asking it to assume responsibility," he said.

Now, note who is being asked to apologize: the government of Georgia, not the people of Georgia. While both the people responsible for slavery - and the people who were victims of slavery - are dead, the government responsible for slavery continues to exist. That government owes an apology to its victims, as sure as any wrongdoer would.

Of course, the Republican Party, the party that claims to be the party of responsibility, does not want the state of Georgia to take any responsibility:

Gov. Sonny Perdue's office said it had no comment on the proposal, but House Speaker Glenn Richardson said Thursday it would be "impossible for legislation offering an apology for slavery to move this session" because it's too late in the 40-day session. He also questioned the need for any type of official apology.

"I'm not sure what we ought to be apologizing for," said the Republican from Hiram. "Nobody here was in office."

Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams had a similar reaction.

"People shouldn't be held responsible for the sins of their fathers," said Williams, R-Lyons. "I personally believe apologies need to come from feelings that I've done wrong. I just don't feel like I did something wrong."

No, Tommie, Glenn, you, personally, are not responsible for slavery and you, personally, have nothing to apologize for. The government of Georgia does.

However, if you prevent our state from taking responsibility for its past, and for apologizing to those who were the victims of its policies, Georgia may not be alone in owing its past victims an apology.