Another example appeared in the June 26 Washington Post. Columnist Courtland Milloy wrote that, “During a road trip with my dad in the summer of 1987, every state line we crossed -- from Louisiana to Mississippi to Arkansas -- seemed to trigger in him recollections of white terrorism, or black triumph over it, from his years growing up in the Old South.” Milloy’s point was that a recent Senate apology for its failure to outlaw lynching was pointless.
Well, of course. All apologies by people not involved in the original actions are pointless.
When Bill Clinton went to Africa to apologize for slavery, it was equally pointless; he’d never owned slaves, he’d never trafficked in slaves, so what did he have to apologize for?
But Milloy’s piece is a reminder of the not-so-distant past. Just decades ago, simply driving in the wrong place could get a black person arrested, beaten up or even killed. Today, blacks travel the south as fearlessly as whites do. And if they do get swept up in the criminal justice system, they may well end up appearing before a black judge. Imagine the thought of a black judge in South Carolina in 1964.
The sad fact is that, today, most segregation is self-segregation. Whites-only groups are rare (even Augusta National, the home of Southern aristocracy, has black members), but blacks-only groups are proliferating.
Of course the issue of race relations isn’t finished. Nothing that large and sweeping ever is. Even after a man finishes a marathon, he’s still got to travel home. Still, we’ve come many miles in this country. Instead of endlessly beating ourselves up, we should spend some time celebrating just how far we’ve come, and how quickly.