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An Appalling Idiocy: A Slave Memorial (Part 2)
| May 29, 2003
| Thomas Sowell
Posted on 05/29/2003 3:02:51 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
Old-time civil rights activist Bayard Rustin once said that blacks should issue a blanket amnesty to whites -- just so that guilty whites would not keep on doing counterproductive things in order to make up for the past. The proposal that Congress create a slave memorial on the Washington Mall is the latest, and perhaps most counterproductive, example of guilt gone awry.
One of the sponsors of the slave memorial proposal is Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns of Florida, who has said, "many of our ancestors are guilty." Even more of those ancestors are dead -- your ancestors, my ancestors and Congressman Stearns' ancestors. They took their sins and their sufferings to the grave with them.
We have all we can do to live our own lives the best way we can, treating our contemporaries with decency and justice. There is not a thing we can do about what other people did in times irretrievably past.
Even to try to apologize on their behalf is a fatuous exercise in collective guilt. Should I apologize to the Korean merchants who were killed in the Los Angeles riots because those who killed them bore a physical resemblance to me?
Murder is not something you can apologize for, in the first place. It is much too serious for an apology. So was slavery.
More than guilt is involved, however. Nothing that happens in Washington is without politics.
The slave memorial proposal has the support not only of liberal Democrats but also of Republicans, including some conservative Republicans who should know better. One of the Republicans' big problems is that the Democrats usually get 90 percent of the black vote. Voting for gimmicks like a slave memorial may seem like a cheap and easy way for Republicans to appeal to blacks.
Such short-sighted cluelessness is one reason the Democrats continue to get 90 percent of the black vote. For reasons unknown, when Republicans try to make inroads into the Democrats' virtual monopoly on the black vote, they try to do it by doing the kinds of things that Democrats do -- and do better than Republicans can.
If Republicans are going to make any inroads into the Democrats' lock on the black vote, it will not be by appealing to the kind of people who want a slave memorial. Those blacks whose views and values make them at least open to hearing what the Republicans have to say are more likely to be offended and repelled by a slave memorial.
Such blacks know that perpetuation of a sense of victimhood has been one of the biggest handicaps facing the younger generation of blacks, at a time when the opportunities open to them have never been greater.
A thousand disclaimers made -- or even believed -- by the supporters of the slavery memorial that this is not about victimhood will not make the slightest difference to the actual outcome. Race hustlers will make sure that it becomes a symbol of victimhood.
The Jesse Jacksons and the Al Sharptons will work tirelessly to make a slave memorial a symbol of victimhood and an argument for reparations, quotas and other handouts, long after those who created this memorial have moved on to other things. Meanwhile, the white backlash will grow, mocking all the pious talk about "healing" and "reconciliation."
Do people who make these kinds of proposals ever bother to look at what has actually happened? Racial polarization has already reached the point in our schools and colleges where there are now all-white proms and different college graduation parties for students of different races.
These are not hangovers from the past. These things -- not to mention "white studies" programs and skinheads -- are now being found in places where they didn't exist 20 or 30 years ago. These are backlashes like those in other countries where governments have singled out particular ethnic groups for special treatment.
We cannot just keep shutting our eyes to such things. Endlessly repeating the magic mantra of "diversity" will not make these realities go away. Building a government-sponsored source of racial divisiveness will only make matters worse.
TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy; US: District of Columbia
KEYWORDS: memorial; slavery; thomassowell
To: Tailgunner Joe
I agree that white people alive today do not owe black people alive today an apologymuch less reparationsfor slavery. I, as a white person, have never enslaved a black person and, indeed, my ancestors fought for the Union to free the slaves. That said, I dont see anything wrong with building a memorial like the one being proposed here. Slavery was an evil institution that robbed many people of their freedom, their families and their lives. Theres nothing wrong with commemorating and remembering that, if for no other reason than to serve as a reminder that it should never happen again. The author argues that the proposed slavery memorial will be nothing but a a symbol of victimhood. Is the Holocaust Museum in Washington nothing but a symbol of victimhood? Those killed in the holocaust were nothing if not victims. How about the Lincoln Memorial? Lincoln, like so many slaves, was also the victim of a white Southerner. No, both the Holocaust Museum and the Lincoln Memorial are places of reflection and healing. And a Slavery Memorial could be one, too, for white Americans as well as black Americans.
And a bit off topic, but in the same way I am not responsible for the sins (and slavery was a sin, in my opinion) of past generations, neither am I responsible for the good deeds of past generations. That is why I dont feel comfortable when many of my fellow Americans say things like Europe owes us for saving them twice in the last century. There are a few Americans left alive who fought in World War One, and more who fought in World War Two. Im proud of their accomplishments and perhaps they feel they are owed something by the people they saved from fascism, but no American under 70 years old or so can claim to be owed anything by Europeans because of what older Americans did back in the first half of the last century. We cant disclaim the misdeeds of our forefathers while at the same time claiming responsibility for their good deeds.
posted on 05/29/2003 3:23:40 PM PDT
I really enjoyed reading your thoughts because they were passionate, considerate, thoughtful, and they show a deep appreciation for our nation and its people--you love your country and it shows.
posted on 05/29/2003 3:43:39 PM PDT
The Holocaust Memorial(s) are indeed monuments to victimhood. After visiting one the public goes away thinking how awful that six million jews were killed. The fact is many
millions of people lost their lives in the second world war. Twenty-million Russians killed. German communists, Catholics, Armenians, gypsies, homos, soldiers on all sides, German women and children, Chinese (also by the millions), Japanese, Americans, French (3 or 4), Brits, Poles, hell just about every group (except of course the dead slaves in question) were killed in the thousands and millions. The only difference is, the jews are a powerful, unified group that get what they want in America, these days. The others just don't cry loud enough, I suppose.
I'm against any idea of a slave memorial. Where is the WW II Veterans Memorial? It sure as hell isn't on the mall in D.C. (Private groups are trying to get something built, just not in Washington...)
It is ridiculous to build a memorial to an EVIL. There is already a memorial in Washington that reminds everyone of slavery--the Lincoln Memorial.
I'm in favor of a slave memorial, of the right sort. It certainly should not be a memorial to victimhood. It should be a memorial that represents the perseverance and hope that got them through 300 years. They shouldn't be portrayed as weak people as they are today because they were anything but weak.
But I have the feeling Rev. Al or Jesse will take over the enterprise and turn it into something that memorializes their fund raising rather than the slaves themselves.
posted on 05/29/2003 4:12:54 PM PDT
I support a slave memorial as well.
posted on 05/29/2003 4:21:35 PM PDT
Thanks for your kind words.
posted on 05/29/2003 4:46:35 PM PDT
"serve as a reminder that it should never happen again"
We need to be reminded?
It's a waste of time, money and energy, and isn't going to do anybody (other than those that will abuse it's supposed well-meaning intent) any good at all. It won't help a man be a good father, it won't help someone get a job, it won't help someone stay in school, it won't help someone stand on their own two feet.
It strikes me as terribly deceitful when slavery still exists today in other countries. Instead of spending on that memorial, how about a fund to expose, publicize, and end slavery elsewhere- so those slaves can enjoy the freedoms that black Americans do?
I'd also like to point out something very telling in your comments:
"I, as a white person, have never enslaved a black person and, indeed, my ancestors fought for the Union to free the slaves. That said..."
You see how it works? You say whites don't owe an apology, but then you qualify that by making an "I'm clean" comment. Why is that? Why is it necessary to say that you wouldn't have owned slaves, and why is it necessary to point out your ancestors fought with the Union?
I think you should think about why you said that.
posted on 05/29/2003 6:35:13 PM PDT
(You do have some cheese, don't you? Of course, sir. It's a cheese shop, sir.)
To: Tailgunner Joe
Yep, Sowell has, as usual, hit the nail on the head. And driven it flush with one pop.
I have relitives that fought on both sides. The ones that fought for the Union had owned slaves about 20 years before the war, and did not care much for blacks.
The South Carolina bunch were hillbilly crackers and were almost as poor as the slaves. They had sheltered escaped slaves and also hunted them depending on how tight the money was.
The moral is.
They are all dead.
The issue is dead, as far as I'm concerned. I will never support "reperations". I will never support the erection of some sort of monument, because it would be an insult to all of us, black and white. Sharpton and Jackson and the rest of their self serving ilk need monuments.
posted on 05/29/2003 6:58:28 PM PDT
("..he's not heavy, sir. He's my brother...")
To: Tailgunner Joe
Endlessly repeating the magic mantra of "diversity" will not make these realities go away. Building a government-sponsored source of racial divisiveness will only make matters worse.
A truth well worth repeating.
posted on 05/29/2003 7:05:35 PM PDT
To: Tailgunner Joe
I am sure Cliff Stearns has good intentions. But if there's a more offensive way conservatives can get black support, I have yet to see it. And as Tom Sowell points out, the GOP can't beat the Democrats at the game of race baiting and establishing quotas nor should it try. The very worst thing the Republican Party can do is reinforce black victimhood, that's destroyed a lot of lives. Sure, slavery was a blight on America's Founding but its not something people need to remember at government behest. Most white Americans never owned slaves. A slave memorial would leave that fact out and it would perpetuate the worst evils of racial division and resentment. Of which we've had enough of already. Appalling idiocy? Yes, and shame on some Republicans for signing up with the Randall Robinsons and John Conyers of this country who want to do nothing better than to portray all white people as forever wicked.
posted on 05/29/2003 8:31:48 PM PDT
(In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
A much more fitting 'memorial' would be to end slavery around the world. Islam is enslaving more people today that were blacks enslaved prior to the British emancipation and our Civil War. Fight slavery today in the diverse places, to 'build a monument' recognizing the wrong done to slaves across the ages! And while were at it, where's the monument to the little ones sacrificed upon the democrat party altar of choice? Al Goreghoul could lay the first wreath as sinkEmperor and his albatross hold the sides.
posted on 05/29/2003 10:08:34 PM PDT
(If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote Life Support for others.)
Comment #14 Removed by Moderator
It's a waste of time, money and energy, and isn't going to do anybody...any good at all. It won't help a man be a good father, it won't help someone get a job, it won't help someone stay in school, it won't help someone stand on their own two feet.
Do you feel the same way about the proposed memorial to victims of September 11? Will you be arguing against "wasting" any time, money and energy to erect a memorial in lower Manhattan? If not, what distinguishes the two proposed memorials in your mind?
I suppose your argument could be made about any monument or memorial. Why bother to put a headstone on a grave? It's a waste of time, money and energy...it won't help someone get a job, it won't help someone stay in school, etc. Why build the Washington Monument or a memorial to the victims of September 11? Why have a Memorial Day parade? Or Fourth of July fireworks? Or celebrate Easter, Passover, Ramadan? Humans erect monuments and celebrate holidays and rituals to remind ourselves of things--both good and bad--that have happened in our history. We use these monuments and ceremonies to remind ourselves and teach future generations the lessons learned from the events and people those monuments and rituals commemorate.
To extend the example of the tombstone, I can go visit many of my ancestors' graves because they are marked by a headstone or other memorial. In some ways, it gives me a sense of where I came from, who I am. For a lot of people whose ancestors were slaves, there are no marked graves, no history to trace, no memorial to visit with their families. Perhaps a physical memorial to their ancestors will provide them with a similar sense of their history and their heritage. What benefit is it to you to deny that to them? I think having a sense of who you are and where you came from can indeed help a man be a good father, help someone get a job, help someone stay in school, help someone stand on their own two feet.
Why did I mention that I have never owned slaves and that my ancestors fought to free American slaves? To bolster my arguement that white Americans as a whole do not owe black Americans as a whole an apology or reparations. Some argue that an apology and/or reparations are owed because the wealth created by slave labor has been passed along from the slave owners to their progeny, and my point was that not all white Americans are the progeny of slave owners.
posted on 05/30/2003 9:15:12 AM PDT
Go back and read the bill, and read the reasons for the memorial. Then come back and talk to me about the memorial, not about unrelated stuff.
You can start with another post of mine here: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/919316/posts?page=47#46
From this thread: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/919316/posts
"To bolster my arguement that white Americans as a whole do not owe black Americans as a whole an apology or reparations. Some argue that an apology and/or reparations are owed because the wealth created by slave labor has been passed along from the slave owners to their progeny, and my point was that not all white Americans are the progeny of slave owners."
Those comments further make my point.
I'm glad you feel less guilty because you say you and yours had no part in slavery. So should culpability or guilt be proportional to the number of ancestors who may have had some connection to slavery? Or what 'side' they fought for during the Civil War?
I'll also point out the memorials you mentioned are to triumphs or in memorium of an exemplary life, or of sacrifice. The proposed memorial isn't to anyone, it's to an institution and a way of life that no longer exists.
Now, if this were a memorial to the triumph of Americans as a people over slavery, and to the future of free people everywhere, of all colors, now THAT would be worth funding.
But sadly, it's not.
posted on 05/30/2003 10:59:38 AM PDT
(You do have some cheese, don't you? Of course, sir. It's a cheese shop, sir.)
To: Tailgunner Joe
There was and still is, if I have the name right, a black entertainer who went to Africa on a tour in the 60's. On her return to the States she was asked on how she felt about going back to "The Motherland". Her comment was, "My forefathers weren't sold into slavery, they were rescued, I am so glad to be back in this country". I want put the name because it could cause some problems.
Slavery at that time was an accepted institution in most of the world. As bad as this statement sounds, and I suggest if you don't agree, do a little research, the blacks who were shipped to this country ended up far better off instead of staying in Africa in the constant tribal wars.
I suggest also that you read the true story of the ship "Armistad". Not a single person on that ship was hunted down by the white man or captured by another tribe, everyone of them were sold into slavery by the OWN families. If you want to look for evil in the slave trade. Start in Africa.
posted on 05/30/2003 6:29:13 PM PDT
by U S Army EOD
(Served in Vietnam and Korea and still fighting America's enemies on the home front)
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