My Beautiful Wickedness


Sorry for starters
April 5, 2007, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I should have something deep and thoughtful to say about the NC Senate apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow. I’m sure I will, in time. But right now I’m fumbling around trying to figure out what I think. There’s been a recent rash of ex-Confederate states apologizing all over the place for the past and that’s, to my mind, a necessary and meaningful beginning. It’s no small thing for the grandchild of a slaveowner to say “my grandparents were wrong and I am still benefitting from your grandparents’ suffering.” I believe in a world of good and of evil, where moral action matters (at least to the actors)…and so it seems to me that those with slave ancestors have waited a hella long time to hear an apology and to be in a position where they can judge the sincerity of the repentance and decide if it’s in them to forgive. Maybe that’s one so deep that God will just have to sort it out.

But here’s the thing. Moral action matters. This can be but a beginning of the reckoning, but from what I’ve seen, the wording of these declarations want it to be the end. They seem hold the past and its harms at arms’ length, as though wishing away the common sense knowledge that the days of suffering are strung on the same fateful strand as tomorrow’s sunrise. Slavery is our common story, our common history and it is a history that we share with the entire world. The story of empire and forced migration has the narrative power to connect us, explain us, save us or damn us, but we can’t pretend that it somehow just was a regrettable singular instance that happened a long time ago. The attitude seems to be that now that this has been duly acknowledged as a harm, “we” can now put it in a case or make an exhibit or something without taking an uncompromising look at structural inequality (the whole vexed issue of race and class) and actually having the courage to do something about that. That would be an opportunity bungled away. I’m not optimistic.

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[…] that I have said something similar to this before— thanks to Gerald for reminding me that NC got there first and did a little bit better job of it. Of course, linking to myself indicates a) […]

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