Apologizing for Slavery. Does it matter?

This from CNN

Im not sure where I stand on this. Does Wachovia really need to apologize for the fact that 140yrs ago two companies, that would eventually become part of Wachovia, dealt in slavery?

What does apologizing accomplish? Will Americans whos ancestors were slaves sleep better now? Or is this just opening up Wachovia to more lawsuits from people who feel reparations are due? Anyone think this is just more PC crap to disguise real race issues in America today?

It certainly seems silly to me. No one who was responsible for those acts is still alive today. That makes the apology both needless and empty.

AFAIK, all of my ancestors were from the North and none owned slaves.

Well, once they reported that the companies had ties to slavery, the right thing to do would be to apologize. This was issued in a public forum, they couldn’t not say anything. It especially makes sense from a business point of view. If someone tells you their mother died, and you say you are sorry to hear that, does it matter? Of course you weren’t responsible, but some things are said just because society dictates it should be, and it makes people feel better. That’s why it matter. An apology doesn’t always mean you are accepting responsibility or culpability for something.

This whole idea of reparations is silly to me.

Assuming there were some slave-owners in my family tree, how is it that I can be deemed responsible for the acts of my forefathers. As a general case in point, my Dad’s unsecured debts will not survive his death, and his debtors will not come looking after me or my brothers or sisters for payment. And more to the point, slavery was not illegal in this country until it was abolished.

Come to think of it, EXTORTION is probably a better term for what these folks are all about.

What kind of money is being spent to go through the archives of a Wachovia, Bank of America, etc. With the sheer volume of smaller banks that have been bought, merged, or otherwise consolidated to make our big banks of today, would it be a wonder if some of these banks once upon a time owned land or other property that was cared for or somehow otherwise associated with slavery? It would surprise me if they couldn’t find such links! And for what? Like it was said before… an apology that cannot possibly hold any substance? OR MONEY. My forefathers were victims of legal (albeit regrettable) activity… therefore I want money. Some things I just don’t get. Can somebody help me?

I’d say that Wachovia is apologizing for profiting indirectly (today) due to the hard work of slaves over a century ago.

Do they need to? Probably not.

On the other hand, is there a reason why they shouldn’t apologize? AFAIK the apology doesn’t hurt them in any way; as a gesture of goodwill and good manners, I can’t see how apologizing is a bad thing.

The same thing saying “please” and “thank you” accomplishes in everyday life.

Being kind is not “political correctness.”

Well, I’ll contend that Wachovia is apologizing because it is being extorted out of them… that if they don’t, they run the risk of boycotts and similar threats.

I’ll bet some are not caving in to this crap. Incidentally, there has been some of this in Chicago, can’t recall the bank(s).

No, its silly, when it was profitable and culturally acceptable to have slaves people had them. Now that its not acceptable or profitable people condemn it. Slavery still exists globally anyway, its pretty hollow for people who didn’t own slaves to apologize to people who aren’t slaves when real slavery still happens.

Yes, if the apology could be used as a legal wedge to extract (I won’t say extort) some form of payment.

But also, the current people running the company have nothing to apologize for. None of them owned any slaves. Should I apologize to you if I find out my great-great-great grandfather hit your great-great-great-grandfather over the head with a bottle in a bar fight? I might say that I’m sorry it happened, but then ANYONE could say that.

I’m sorry that slaves were owned by people in the US. Most people are. My ancestors were from New England, and I have quite a few Union Army ancestors who fought, and some died, to end slavery. Should the decendants of slaves thank me for that? Of course not-- I had nothing to do with it, myself.

Wow. Are people really questioning the appropriateness of apologizing for profiting from the ownership and exploitation of human beings?

An apology is quite different from reparations, and the two terms shouldn’t be conflated. An apology is the acknowledgement and expression of regret of a wrong. In my opinion, there isn’t a statute of limitations on such an act.

For some reason a real stumbling block in this nation’s seeming inability to make much progress in regards to race relations is the inability to recognize what intergenerational transfer of wealth and societal privilege does for those advantaged, and those disadvantaged. Think of the number of people out there who by condition of their birth, receive inherited property or assets, have access to adequate schooling, health care, and protection (fire, police, etc.). In many cases, that has a lot to do with what advantages your parents had, which are passed along to the progeny. In of itself, this is perfectly normal and natural to do; however, when that privilege is a result of taking advantage of others, it is truly unfair.

And this isn’t “oh, my forefathers were smarter/faster/harder-working than yours.” This is “my forefathers did not consider your forefathers to be human beings, but profited from their labor without compensation, and furthermore instituted a reign of terror and brutal violence.” If you think that the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow has disappeared, I’d have to ask what is in the Kool-Aid you’ve been drinking. What evidence exists that after the Emancipation Proclaimation and the end of Jim Crow laws, everything is equal and fair?

Given the advantages and wealth accumulated by banks and companies that owned and subjugated African Americans in the past, I’d say an apology is the very least that should be done. Furthermore, it does absolutely nothing to reduce profits or market share. Even if one is cynical, why on earth would one think that this is an empty gesture?

I don’t see significant hope in improving race relations until the United States government also apologizes for its mistreatment of African Americans and Native Americans through the slave trade and Manifest Destiny.

“Why does a munltibillion dollar corporation feel the need to apologize for profiting from slave labor? That’s just stupid.”

“Yeah, stupid,”

“Well it certainly seems silly to me. It’s needless and empty 'cuz the people responsible are dead. Never mind that the apology acknowlegdes the wrong that was done and that there are numerous precedents for apologizing for government and corporate business practices. But this instance it’s just silly becaise I’m uncomfortable with the premise that a business entity can acknowldge and apologize for wrongdoing in its distant past! I think I’ll just call it meaningless and without substance instead!”

“Yeah, that makes me uncomfortable, too.”

“You know what else honks me off? Reparations are stupid! Yeah, let’s talk about that even though the article didn’t bring it up at all! My family didn’t own slaves! Why should BLACK PEOPLE expect any kind of reparartions for the wealth of this nation when it profited from directly from the disenfranchised second-class citizenry of black labor that built its infrastructure, textile industry, public monuments and agricultural base?”

“That honks me off, too! The nerve of those actvists for bringing up an ongoing injustice we’d like to pretend is crazy for us to consider!”"

“I’ll bet other people aren’t caving into this silliness! It’s extortion. I’d call it blackmail except some smartass won’t be able to resist the pun.”

“Betcha it’ll be Askia.”

“Shit, does that guy do anything but talk about all aspects of black culture, TV and comic books? Fuck man, spray yourself with an industrial sized water hose and get laid.”

Count me in as another who doesn’t get it in the least. Does Watchovia employ no second- or third- generation immigrants? What did they have to do with slavery?

Plus you can’t forever claim that your parnets & and your parents’ parents had it bad so you have it bad, considering the multitude of people who made it anyway.

And frankly, apologizing does nothing. Neither does reparations. If Watchovia were to try to eradicate slavery around the world, (Donating money or whatever) that might be different.

This thread is certainly an opportunity to fight ignorance.

yo no se, John Mace, Wesley Clark, and Anaamika, do you currently reside in the United States? Likening slavery and Jim Crow to being hit in the head with a bottle is hardly an appropriate comparison. Slavery in the Americas was unlike slavery practiced by the Romans, for instance, when slaves were typically those who lost battles, and it was possible to enter society after a period of time. Certainly one was not considered subhuman. Nor was the condition of slavery inheritable. Chattel slavery - as practiced by the Portuguese, Spanish, English, and Dutch, to name a few - was a new invention.

But on to the bigger issue I have with your arguments. Are you familiar with the concept of White privilege? If not, I strongly suggest you read this excellent article by Peggy McIntosh that explains what the effect of inherited privilege has been. Furthermore, for each privilege listed, there is a lived and real deficit for those who do not hold the marker of privilege. That’s not to say that every single non-White person experiences every disadvantage in every context, nor does it mean that every single White person experiences those privileges in every context. But it occurs enough, I would argue, that most Americans that I have discussed this article with agree that it rings true.

If you are familiar with the concept, I’d like you to consider it before you respond with glib responses.

oopsie, double post, but the second post is the one that is better thought out…

How about instead of apologizing for slavery from 200 years ago we end slavery today? 12.3 million people live in slavery, if Wachovia had apologized by doing something to help those 12.3 million I’d be all for it, but they aren’t. In 200 years I bet the governments of Sudan & Myanmar will apologize for slavery in the 20th & 21st century, and it’ll be stupid when it happens then too.

:rolleyes: I consider it inappropriate to apologize for something which one did not do.

Roman slavery was not quite as bad as American, but not by much. And “American” slavery in the US was considerably less harsh than elsewhere in the New World. I think you also overestimate the liberty of man slavery by a wee bit.

Not the appropriateness, just the usefullness. I will gladly appologize for things which I did myself. I will not appologize for things my ancestors did. There is simply no end to the appologies, if we go back far enough.

Should I applogize to the poor kid in Bangladesh because I have a comfortable life and he doesn’t? Where does it end?

Is slavery wrong, yes. But tell it to the people in Saudi Arabia forced to work 12 hours a day, tell it to the kidnap victims in Sudan. Instead of apologizing for stuff people did when it was economically and socially acceptable now that its neither, why not try to end it today? As I said, in 200 years the governments of North Korea, Myanmar, Sudan, etc will be apologizing for slavery and those of us today will have done little to stop it there.

I don’t kick people in the head when it feels good, apologize when it stops feeling good, then do nothing about the other people on earth kicking others in the head. That is a bad way to approach life. Its the same with slavery. Accepting slavery when its profitable, stopping when its not, and apologizing when its not, then doing nothing about it when other people do it is not something I support.

If Wachovia wants to apologize by trying to fight modern slavery more power to them. But I doubt they will, they’ll just say ‘were sorry’ and that’ll be the end of it

Interesting article though.

Originally quoted by John Mace

Have you read Wachovia’s statement?

Wachovia’s predecessor institutions DID own slaves. It is something they were responsible for. Or are you suggesting that all of the profits, advantages, etc. somehow disappeared once the individuals who worked for the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company and the Bank of Charleston died?