Congress Needs to Apologize

Dear Editor,

Across the nation and around the world, folks are seriously talking about an apology for slavery. This year, the Virginia General Assembly was the first state EVER to apologize for slavery and other state legislatures are slowly following suit. The following facts will show you why I, a descendant of slaves and survivor of Jim-Crow, believe that not only should the states apologize for slavery but also the United States Congress.

Most Americans, black or white, have never heard of the Congressional Record, the daily diary of the U.S. Congress since 1789. The Congressional Record is a verbatim account of what goes on in Congress – the debates, legislative business and procedures. It shows the intent of Congress and has been recorded daily, whenever Congress is in session, since 1789.

In these hundreds and hundreds of volumes, our national leaders debated slavery, often quoting from the Bible, referring to black Americans as "beast of the field," which helped them justify the brutality of slavery. Even into the 1940s and '50s, powerful southern senators would stand up and proclaim: "In these chambers, I represent the white race and the white race alone but the Negro indeed benefits from the decisions that are made here."

No wonder it took 100 years after slavery to make us first-class citizens!

An apology for slavery from Congress may very well open the door to reparations – something that most white Americans are so afraid of. I'm 52 years old and I may not live to see reparations happen, nor the next generation, but we should never give up hope. Change takes time – sometimes decades, centuries – but hope is eternal. 40 acres and mule? Right now, I'd take an acre and a chicken!

One last thought. White Americans constantly tell us black Americans to "get over" slavery, to "get over" our history. Tell me, how does one "get over" history one has never known? Let me know first before I have to forget. Again, thanks for listening and KEEP HOPE ALIVE.

Pamela A. Hairston
Washington, DC