Opinion: Congress Must Officially Apologize For Slavery. It’s Essential Before U.S. Can Think About Reparations

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Written by Ann Brown
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By Autumn Keiko

Congress must officially apologize for slavery before America can even discuss reparations, say lawyers and political consultants Mark Medish and Daniel Lucich, who served in Bill Clinton’s administration. 

Reparations have become the latest buzz words, for several reasons. 

“The 400th anniversary of the introduction of slavery to the Jamestown Colony, coupled with a tremendous endeavor from The New York Times called the ‘1619 Project,’ has fueled the ongoing national debate over reparations,” the duo wrote in an opinion piece or NBC News.

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Reparations have also been in the spotlight because several 2020 Democratic candidates, like Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey, have addressed the issue. There was also the recent congressional hearing on reparations.

“This is not the first time Congress has recently attempted to address the issue of slavery. The House in 2008 and the Senate in 2009 put forward resolutions apologizing for slavery, but no joint bill passed. Since 1989, prominent African American representatives have proposed larger bills to address America’s ‘original sin.’ While these proposals focus on reparations, it is noteworthy that they start with calls for a formal national apology,” Medish and Lucich wrote.

And while the estimates of reparations range from an “apparently serious estimate of zero to $6 trillion to more than $14 trillion.” The two say even before there can be talk of money, there has to be an apology.

“Apologizing is not just about making the wronged party feel better or whole. It is an act of self-correction: The apologizer is declaring that in spite of what was done, they are no longer that type of person — or nation. They are better than that. In the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance, for example, genuine contrition is a necessary precursor to reconciliation with God,” the pair explain.

Since slavery still has lingering effects in not only the Black psyche but in all of Americans, an apology, they argue will have a profound effect.

America has apologized to others in the past — to the World War II Japanese internees, Hawaiians, Native Americans, and the Tuskegee syphilis study victims

Some institutions in America have already taken the step to apologize.

“Religious congregations have taken similar steps. The Episcopalian Church formally apologized in 2008 for the ‘sin and fundamental betrayal of humanity’ of slavery. It was also in this spirit of apology that Georgetown University, a Jesuit-affiliated institution, decided in 2017 to apologize for its role in the slave trade,” they wrote.

Also, 9 of the 18 states with slave populations before the Civil War have issued official apologies. But the largest slave-holding states have yet to apologize.