Topic: Making Use of History
"Never apologize, son. It's a sign of weakness." – Not Just for Muslims Anymore
Monday, June 13, the Senate voted to issue a formal apology for its repeated failures to pass anti-lynching legislation.
A Senate Apology for History on Lynching
Vote Condemns Past Failure to Act
Avis Thomas-Lester, Washington Post, Tuesday, June 14, 2005; Page A12
Drawing on the assistance of Assistant Historian of the Senate Betty Koed, Historian of the House of Representatives Robert Remini, Garrison Nelson of the University of Vermont, and Julian Zelizer of Boston University, Daniel Engber here, in the "Explainer" column at SLATE.COM, gives background.
First, the resolution itself can be found here - noting congress ignored hundreds of proposed anti-lynching bills as thousands of African-Americans were killed between 1882 and the 1968. Oops.
Precedents? Engber notes these:
So this sort of thing is recent, and rare.
Engber speculates that "lawmakers might be afraid that an admission of guilt will lead to claims for government reparations, like those offered to the victims of wartime internment. Bills calling for an investigation of reparations for slavery have been introduced again and again over the last few decades. A formal apology for a single injustice done to a single group also might invite demands from other groups."
One must be careful. Engber does note that last Wednesday the Senate passed a bill to recognize the importance of sun safety. And a few months earlier, senators unanimously agreed to commend the men's gymnastics team from the University of Oklahoma for winning the NCAA championship.
As mentioned previously –
Bush urged: 'Never apologize' to Muslims
Administration officials reportedly inspired by classic John Wayne movie
That – and it can cost big bucks.
And what is the point? Tuesday morning this was in the local paper our here, the Los Angeles Times - one Deborah Crawford, whose great-grandfather was lynched in South Carolina in 1916 after arguing with a white farmer over the price of cottonseed, saying the whole thing was just odd - "I feel that there should be something else, something more than an apology, but I don't know what."
Oh, no one knows what.
By the way, this was a voice vote – so no one had to go on record. That way you don't lose the votes of the red-meat right.
Over at The Daily Kos you can find a list of the initial twenty who 1) refused to co-sponsor the anti-lynching resolution, and 2) refused a roll-call vote so they'd have to put their name on the resolution.
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Michael Crapo (R-ID)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Trent Lott (R-MS)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Craig Thomas (R-WY)
George Voinovich (R-OH)
Kent Conrad (D-ND) – but later changed his mind and joined as co-sponsor
What was Howard Dean saying about the Republicans being a monolithic party of white Christians? Everyone, Democrat and Republican alike, was aghast at that remark - except Wesley Clark (See this - "I'm proud of Howard Dean. I'm proud of the Democratic party. And we're going to stand together as a party.")
John Aravosis over at AMERICABlog checks what was coming from the offices of those who didn't want to apologize for anything – the usual "my boss was out of town" stuff. But he points out this -
Kent Conrad (D-ND) did. The others?
Of the nineteen left there are sixteen on the list as of Tuesday night - Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott among them. They know their constituencies. And they watch those John Wayne movies.
Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly points to something else happening Monday – the same day as the apology – "The Supreme Court, overturning the murder convictions of a black man in California and another in Texas by nearly all-white juries, warned judges and prosecutors Monday that they must put an end to racial discrimination in the selection of jurors." (Full story here.)
So? His comment -
A quibble – is there value in symbolic actions like the Senate apology? What would it be?
It seems like posturing. Yes, better to work on the nuts and bolts of jury selection.
Do something now.
La Shawn Barber, who happens to be black, says this:
Hey! There's an idea.