WTMA commentary broadcast 2/29/08:

When it was reported this week that Congress was scheduled to vote on an apology for slavery this year, I wasn’t the least bit surprised as a number of states have already done so. Such an apology is not only ridiculous, but unjustified.

American slavery is a funny business. Not because it has long ceased to exist but because it still does exist in the minds of those who can’t decide whether its memory is too hard to bear or too profitable to bury. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others would not have careers if they did not have an eternal chip on their shoulder and don’t mind exploiting the fact that there’s nothing that weighs more on the modern man’s conscience than the notion of owning another.

But in reality the wagging finger of today’s slave drivers has more to do with politically-correct fashion than logic as they completely ignore the slavery that exists today in modern Africa, yet can’t stop talking about an institution that’s been long gone in America. Things have gotten so absurd that even alleged symbols of slavery like the Confederate flag are considered so offensive that major retailers often refuse to stock merchandise featuring them, while gladly stocking merchandise that very well may have been made by actual slaves.

As is always the case with identity politics, conventional notions of fairness always take a backseat to racial one-sidedness.

For example, for all the hubbub over the “evil” white man, has any black leader ever demanded an apology from today’s West Africans for their ancestor’s actions? Americans and Europeans could have never profited from slavery without the assistance of African slave traders, but this glaring fact is never mentioned.

For those who believe that the “Civil War” was fought purely over slavery, a notion at least as simplistic as reducing the war in Iraq to oil, does anyone ever think to thank the 600,000 white men who died fighting to end human bondage on American soil? No, because it serves no purpose.

If it were not for the white West, slavery likely wouldn’t have been abolished at all. British imperialism in the 18th and 19th centuries gave the West the leverage to eradicate slavery, while Africans, Arabs and Asians fought bitterly to preserve the profitable institution. Can we expect a big, sloppy kiss from Congress in the near future, thanking white folks for their hard work? No, because there is no political gain or axe to grind by congratulating dead white men.

Slavery has been the norm throughout the history of mankind, not the exception, and who had a hand in this dirty business is better understood through the eyes of the historian, not politicians. There is no good reason for anyone living today, black or white, to apologize for slavery. Being sorry that something happened is not the same as apologizing for it, which implies guilt on the part of the apologist. White Americans should not feel the least bit of guilt over slavery, any more than black Americans should feel guilty over their own ancestors’ transgressions.

Again, using the logic of identity politics, one could just as easily make the case that black Americans owe white Americans an apology for today’s high black crime rate – a very real problem that affects people living in the present – yet accusations of “racism” would fly at the mere suggestion. But then again threats of being called “racist” compel our leaders to do all sorts of goofy things these days, even though such accusations are more often reckless slurs than accurate descriptions.

When as a Southerner, I dare to seek justice for wrongs committed in the past, whether it’s the righteousness of the War for Southern Independence or my criticism of Abraham Lincoln, such talk is considered beyond the pale. So-called conservatives like Mitt Romney have voiced their disgust over people who honor the Confederate flag and probable Republican presidential nominee John McCain insists that the flag is nothing more than a shameful symbol of slavery. I’ve never asked for any apologies, just a little intellectual dialogue – and yet allegedly conservative Republicans insist that such conversations are not worth having.

So why apologize for slavery? The backers of the current bill, sponsored in part by alleged conservative, Republican Senator Sam Brownback, suggest that it will open up a “new dialogue” on race relations. It will not. But it is telling which conversations our politically-correct leaders – especially the Republican Party – believe are worth having.

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.