Land of the Free, Home of the Slave

New Jersey is the newest state to enter into the debate about apologizing for enslavement. So far, Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia have taken the lead in offering an official apology, which would make New Jersey the first northern state to make such an offer. The apology comes in the form of a state-wide resolution, which is designed expresses “profound regret” for Jersey’s role in institution of enslavement in the United States. There are strong opinions on both sides of this issue. Among those most vehemently against the resolution are Republican party members Richard Merkt and Patrick Carroll. Merkt said,

“Who living today is guilty of slave holding and thus capable of apologizing for the offense? And who living today is a former slave and thus capable of accepting the apology? So how is a real apology even remotely possible, much less meaningful, given the long absence of both oppressor and victim?”

Carroll added,

“On a current note, if slavery was the price that a modern American’s ancestors had to pay in order to make one an American, one should get down on one’s knees every single day and thank the Lord that such price was paid,”(read more here).

What a terrifying notion that we, as the descendants of the enslaved, should “get down on our knees” and thank the creator for blessing our ancestors with enslavement. I wonder, too, if the indigenous Americans, the Lumbee, the Incas or Aztecs should thank Europeans for the genocide, which helped them become a part of the American Dream. I believe that this very ideology is exactly why an apology is necessary. These comments reveal that many Americans do not believe that institutions such as enslavement and genocide are inherently bad, as they have been instrumental in helping (some) Americans achieve a high standard of living. Why would we be thankful for such an atrocity?

New Jersey had particular significance in the slave trade, with one of the largest slave populations in the northern colonies. Jersey was also the last northern state to free slaves as well as the last northeast state to abolish slavery, doing so in 1846. But is an apology enough? What other steps can New Jersey and the other states that have expressed anguish over their involvement in the slave trade do to rectify it’s lasting legacy?

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Published on January 9, 2008 at 1:14 pm. Post A Comment.
Filed under history,news/politics.