Syndicated columnist Walter E. Williams pouts and complains that calls for the Virginia legislation to issue decrees of apologies for slavery fall far short. In fact, he goes the extra mile and suggests that whites owe blacks something. He seems to suggest that each and every white person should resolve black problems in Virginia – as if blacks themselves are unable to do anything.
Mr. Williams does everything but admit accountability for himself or blacks in Virginia. Instead, he criticizes white legislators in Virginia for not appeasing his requirements for an apologetic legislative mandate; and then squarely lays the blame on whites for whatever societal ills blacks in Virginia seem to have, ranging from unemployment to murder.
Then, in a brilliant display of hypocritical meandering, Mr. Williams issues what could easily be labeled as “poor,” “pathetic,” and “insensitive” regret for the murder of six million Jews; untold millions of Russians; for the murder of 45 million Chinese; for the Khmer Rouge’s massive genocide programs; and the more recent programs of genocide in Uganda (though he conspicuously fails to mention Bosnia – almost all the victims were whites). Quite conveniently, Mr. Williams also attempts to portray the plight of blacks in Virginia to be on par with these millions of victims.
The problem Mr. Williams has is the fact that slavery (in the context he discusses) happened more than 100 years ago, and in his futile attempt to link past with present, he tries to develop a correlation as to why blacks in Virginia suffer from various societal ailments. To put it simply, Mr. Williams asks – no, demands – that modern sufferings of black people must be cured by whites, if only because once upon a time, black people were slaves in Virginia, and that any murder which occurs in Virginia in 2007 will be the direct result of slavery in the 1800s.
I got news for Mr. Williams: Get over it, already.
I’m not about to deny that blacks in this country still have some difficulties in making inroads towards achieving the American Dream, whatever that may be. There are always pockets of people who are prejudiced against other people, if only because of skin color, cultural differences, or even politically philosophical differences. And unfortunately, the evil perpetuated by racism continues, even in today’s increasingly liberal society, and it seems to be an ingrained aspect of American life.
I know something about discrimination and oppression, though, and probably more so than the vast majority of blacks in this country: I’m deaf. You won’t see me, however, pining for legislators to issue apologies for the treatment of all deaf people, either.
Once upon a time in ancient Sparta, deaf babies and children were killed simply for being born deaf; in later centuries in this country, deaf people were shuttled off into “institutions” never heard from again; and in more recent times, deaf people were not allowed to vote, drive, find gainful employment and so forth and so on. Even as recently as the 1970’s, a common prescription for children born deaf was simply to have them placed into asylums, and rarely offered the opportunity to become full-fledged humans. In short, the dehumanization of deaf people throughout multiple civilizations has long been ignored, and a lack of apologetic legislative decrees shows insensitivity and further dehumanizing of all deaf people – at least, if we use Mr. Williams’ logic.
So, where is my apology, Mr. Williams?
Moreover, at the onset of World War II, the first groups the Nazis practiced their genocide and human pain tolerance trials (imagine acid being poured into your eyes just to gauge the response) were on deaf (and other disabled) people – not Jews. In postwar West Germany, deaf people were required to be sterilized. In many Arabic countries – even today – laws (written and otherwise) exist to “protect” families and dowries from forfeiture in the event a child is born with a birth defect, such as deafness. I bet Mr. Williams has never walked across the border to Mexico and witnessed deaf (and disabled) children standing on the bridge between the two countries, begging for money. There are far too many other examples to list, but the point is clear: dehumanization of deaf (and disabled) people around the world continues.
Nationally, deaf people routinely suffer the highest levels of drug abuse, suicide, unemployment rates, generally do not receive adequate education, and are typically mired in the ignorance of society. Even the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was created to “level the playing field” for people with disabilities, was trashed by millions of people who did not suffer any form of disability and have, for all intents and purposes, reduced the ADA to a weak legislative mandate barely hanging on for survival.
So, where is my apology, Mr. Williams?
I have routinely faced discrimination in many forms, although I seriously doubt a lynching of a deaf person has occurred in recent years. I have faced oppression in various forms, although I don’t complain that all hearing people owe me the regret of thousands of years of dehumanized practices on people like myself (my deafness is genetic, so using Mr. Williams inference, all poor treatment of others in my genetic line deserve some form of apology). Despite all this, I have never killed someone. I have never robbed someone, either. I’ve stayed away from drugs and other pitfalls of society because I’m not stupid.
If anything, the deaf community in this country needs serious help, but I don’t see Mr. Williams demanding such action. In fact, why doesn’t Mr. Williams apologize to some 200 children, ages 11-15, who were forced into prostitution by more than 150 pimps in Oakland, California? Why doesn’t Mr. Williams apologize to the Filipino woman named Serena, who was beguiled into going to Saudi Arabia to seek better employment opportunities, only to endure forced slavery (sexual, too) since her employer seized her passport and refused to return it to her? Why doesn’t Mr. Williams apologize to countless other minority groups struggling to survive – literally and figuratively – in many countries around the world? Slavery still exists globally, although I rarely have ever seen any high-profile black person attempt to advocate the plight of enslaved victims in other countries.
Seems to me that blacks in this country have little to complain about, especially with regard to legislative mandates issuing apologies for sins that occurred more than 100 years ago. Compared to deaf people, for example, there’s little justification or rationalization why blacks can’t find decent jobs, or can’t obtain decent education, or not murder other people, or not consume illegal drugs.What the Virginia Commonwealth General Assembly did was wrong – they shouldn’t have issued any apologies whatsoever. And now, because of their stupidity, every group in America will demand and seek apologies from everyone not in their group. It won’t be long now before a homeowner’s association will demand that everyone living in apartments apologizes to homeowners for lowering land values.
Mr. Williams and everyone else who seem to feel that whites owe blacks something, let me tell you: get over it. The best way to overcome whatever societal plights your group may be suffering is to accept responsibility for your actions – not what your ancestors or someone else’s ancestors may or may not have done. Even if Mr. Williams had a great, great, great grandfather who was a sharecropper, which has nothing to do with a black man killing another person in 2007, there is no correlation, other than what might exist in Mr. Williams’ mind between slavery in the 1800’s and the murder rate in Virginia in 2007.
At some point, blacks need to stop complaining about slavery. Yes, it was a horrible crime against humanity, but put into the appropriate context and perspective, slavery in this country pales to the massive crimes against humanity in modern times, from China to Turkey to Uganda (and Bosnia, Mr. Williams). White people don’t owe blacks anything; nobody owes anybody anything, other than common sense and decency, and if we subscribe to Mr. Williams’ philosophy, we may as well all extrapolate apologies for every perceived sin (real or not) humans inflict upon one another and that would simply be too cumbersome, too difficult and in a word – stupid.
I will defer Mr. Williams’ owed apologies if he’ll go and be positively constructive about ending slavery elsewhere in the world. Go volunteer for Free the Slaves. Donate money for poor, starving children who were once slaves in Asia. Speak out against slavery where it really exists – not something that happened well over 100 years ago. Until then, people like Mr. Williams need to do one thing first:
Get over it.
Finally, a passage from Richard C. Harwood’s book, Hope Unraveled, is appropriate: “If you want to change the world, start with your country; and if you want to change your country, start with your state; and if you want to change your state, start with your town; and if you want to change your town, start with your family; and if you want to change your family, start with yourself.”Powered by Sidelines