If you’ve noticed, there’s a lot of public apologizing going on these days. Several presidential candidates, including John Edwards, have apologized for their earlier positions on the Iraq war. The state democratic party has apologized for its role in the 1898 Wilmington riot. The state apologized to all the women sterilized under the state’s eugenics program. Now, Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand has proposed legislation that would provide a formal apology for the state’s role in slavery and Jim Crow.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle are jumping on the apology bandwagon. But their ‘sorry’ rings hollow in my ears. I’m skeptical of legislators’ eagerness to express “profound regret” for mistakes of the past while so many injustices of the present are overlooked.
The remnants of social inequality created by slavery and segregation remain in our state today. You only have to look at our state’s statistics on health, education or economic security to see them. So if legislators genuinely wanted to make amends for these social injustices, they should address the inequality issues in North Carolina. Actions speak louder than words.
Sen. Malcolm Graham, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, said he wants to see more concrete actions.
“I understand the spirit in reference to the resolution, and I’m going to support it, but I want to see some substance in terms of public policy that backs that apology up,” he said. “We need public policy. (Raleigh News & Observer)
A good starting point for legislative action is the HKonJ 14 point agenda put forth by the NC NAACP and endorsed by 70 other organizations. This agenda calls for policies that address inequalities in education, health access, criminal justice, employment and housing. This agenda gives legislators an opportunity to do more than say they’re sorry; it gives them an opportunity to mean it.