Looking to the case of Virginia, where legislators offered an expression of "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery, the Georgia NAACP is demanding that the legislature apologize for slavery. Thus, they continue to exploit the suffering of their slave forebears. One wonders, were it not for slavery, what would these agitators do?
Recognizing the hollowness of such "apologies," Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson said, "Nobody here was in office when slavery was practiced." He is right: Apologies on behalf of others are empty and do nothing more than promote one's estimation of one's self.
But that is precisely why liberals—who are most likely to mock the notion of personal sin—demand such an apology: The blame is cast on one's forebears and the price is paid by others.
Nor do the liberal elite enact legislation that affects them adversely. It is the elite white liberals who agitate for affirmative action—the collective amends and the implicit apology going on for decades now. It's easy for them. The elite do not stand in line before the factory door. They are not a number in a stack of applications in college admissions and financial aid offices. "Give them affirmative action!" they cry generously, while they use their family’s connections and earning power to get into the best schools and companies.
The same impulse motivated the well-heeled radicals in the 1960s, who blamed the injustices around them on others.
One need only look at the Port Huron Statement, written in 1962 by a twenty-one-year-old Tom Hayden with the input of 60 of his college-age peers that outlined the grievances of an admittedly privileged group who had the luxury of attending universities. All around them they saw injustice, poverty, and inauthenticity. They saw an unequal distribution of wealth and so they applied their parents’ playbook, The Communist Manifesto. But it was the real proletariat—the working classes—who paid the price for their selfish idealism. It was this disaffected group, disgusted by the behavior of the radical elites, that voted in Richard Nixon in 1968. The divide remains between red and blue America.
That generation—whether a public figure like Garrison Keillor on taxpayer- supported public radio or the radical at the neighborhood party--is very quick to claim credit for having "marched and changed the world." But that generation actually did harm to the Civil Rights movement—not to mention their responsibility for millions of deaths in Vietnam.
Being the spoiled egotists that they were, the radicals did not limit their project to redressing one aspect of American life that did not live up to the Founding Fathers' ideal that "all men are created equal." Instead, the flower children took it upon themselves to overthrow Western civilization and refashion society in their own image. A bunch of unkempt, loud, sexually promiscuous, and sometimes violent young people with an obvious communist platform alienated potential allies, who otherwise agreed with the idea of equal rights.
Yet, in their claim of having "changed the world" these flower children pride themselves as if they had withstood the tanks of Tiananmen Square. No credit is given to our culture’s heritage of Christian universal rights, which more than in any other place in the world has found its full realization. More often it was the working class, police officers and their families, who died and suffered.
As stated explicitly in the Port Huron Statement, the institution targeted to effect the overthrow of Western civilization was the university, where one has the luxury of instituting affirmative action and agitating for policies that will affect those outside its ivy-covered walls: workers, soldiers, and those who refuse to march lock-step to their ideology. Inside these walls the elites offer higher salaries to candidates of a certain race. They calculatingly write on the fashionable topics of race and thereby promote themselves. (Yes, Virginia, some whites who write dissertations and books on black issues do it because that’s where the jobs and publishing contracts are; just go to a graduate student or faculty party and listen in.) Furthermore, the radicals have changed the curriculum to eliminate the thinkers of past centuries and replaced them with—guess what--those after 1960. Now a student can just about graduate from a university without having read anything written before 1960 in a humanities class.
The ideology promoted in the universities is that the radicals and those who agree with them are responsible for all the good in this country. All that is bad is the result of the incompleteness of their project.
The effort to get apologies for injustices committed decades and centuries ago emanates from the view of activists as superior to their predecessors. It is the shout of the child to the parent: "Apologize!"
It is also a way to keep their status visible and to continue victimhood in order to continue such policies as affirmative action, an idea that directly contradicts notions of fairness and universal rights. The white promoters of affirmative action most often come from the privileged classes, those with the money and connections who know they will go to Ivy League Universities and get the best jobs.
Those who suffer from affirmative action are the lower classes, the students who may work harder but are beat out by the minority student, or who lose funding to minority students. They are the factory workers, like members of my family, who may have worked their way up to supervisory positions but are told explicitly that race trumps ability in job promotion. Or, told back in the 1970s that supervisory positions at the factory were to henceforth go to minorities, they left their jobs. It goes on.
It may be hard for the social progressives to believe this but it is true. Yes, white people who have no connections have to do things like wait on tables to put themselves through community college. I know because I had to do it. But people I know and am related to who have worked in blue collar jobs since they were eighteen and struggle to put their children through college will not speak up about this for fear of losing their jobs. The white elites rarely speak to the white working classes, unless it is to force their preconceived notions of "white privilege" on them.
Affirmative action offers upper management a way to get sacrifices from the real workers and then take credit for their largesse. Similarly, the students who had the money and leisure to march in the 1960s did it on the backs of their working class colleagues who fought their wars and picked up the slack from less qualified workers "affirmatively" ushered into the workplace.
But it’s the privileged—now in their fifties and sixties--who will corner you at a party and brag about how they "changed the world." The effort to get government apologies allows them and their children or grandchildren who tool around campuses clad in designer jeans in BMWs to wrap the cloak of righteousness around themselves.
It is the black liberals too who have hardly anything to say unless it exploits the sufferings of their slave forebears. Even while their and other non-white groups’ buying power "skyrockets," according to a recent University of Georgia study, even as they run the cities like Atlanta, write the editorials of the daily newspaper, they fall back to their slave forebears. The "legacy of slavery" also fuels the careers of rappers spewing out lyrics so vile their actual slave forebears would be ashamed. The "legacy of slavery" supports black and white poets and writers who exploit the suffering of slaves to advance their own careers.
The fact that slaves made incredible sacrifices for their children (as Frederick Douglass shows by the example of his mother in his autobiography) and even showed love for the children of their owners is a testament to the human spirit and Christian charity. Such examples, of course, have been repeated under other extremes of human injustice: Communist pogroms, concentration camps, war zones. In all periods of history are stories of the human spirit rising, and no less in the case of slavery in the U.S.
But rather than using the examples of their forebears as inspiration, many blacks and their white liberal exploiters, capitalize on slavery for their own advancement. If anything, the black descendants ought to criticize how the white elite have used the legacy of slavery to their own advantage, to cull political favor, to position themselves as superior to others in their own race, to write the books that publishers want and that will earn them royalty checks and gain them tenure.
One wonders, were it not for slavery, were it not for the suffering of these people that black and white elites cash in on, would these elites in the academy, the media, and public life be anything? Isn’t it time they stopped exploiting slaves? The apologies will do nothing for those who suffered, the slaves. They have gone on to their rewards.
Face it: It’s the elites who want to live off the capital of slaves in one way or another. The agitation for apologies reeks of insincerity and self-promotion.
It’s time to move on. Black descendants should display some of the dignity of their forebears. White elites should finally do some real, productive work.