Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Apologize with one hand, blugeon with the other

The Senate has apologized for the traditional American practice of getting a group of friends together and brutally attacking a person or group of people of color and mutilating them in some grotesque way. Mary Landrieu, D-La., addressed a gallery of decendants and relations of victims and apologized for not enacting any legislation to prevent such killings.

While I'm glad that the families of the victims had their day in Washington, I'm severely underimpressed. I'm particularly unimpressed with the media coverage which has consistently trotted out the old "official" statistics on lynching: "He was one of 4,743 people killed by mob violence between 1882 and 1968, according to Tuskegee University records. Of those, nearly three-fourths – 3,446 – were blacks," and acted shocked by the whole thing, when 4,743 is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the true number of people of color (every color) in our nation's proud history of lynching.

In the discussions following the apology, I've noticed many white Americans have a difficult time believing that our country "went through such a terrible time".

This is the sentiment that tells me the apology is not really for the victims or their decendants. It's for the decendants of the lynchers to feel better about themselves--to separate themselves from these atrocities. Well, the Senate didn't quite cooperate. Unable to get every Senator to sign on sponsorship of the bill, the debate on the bill was held on a Monday night and passed with a voice vote, so that no Senator would have to express their stance openly of being against the bill. From the L.A. Times:

Some senators complained that the debate was taking place on a Monday night, when few senators were present, and that the leadership scheduled a voice vote rather than a roll call vote.

"I think that's a mistake," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said when he rose in support of the resolution. "I think the United States Senate should stand up and every man and woman here would have to vote during a roll call, one way or the other."

Instead of censored hollow apologies where our elected are free from public showcase of their tacit approval of the killing of people of color, how about some actual measures to prevent contemporary lynchings? Can we not talk about these atrocities with far away looks of disbelief?

When Vincent Chin was lynched for being young, yellow, and celebrating his upcoming wedding at a bachelor party, where were all these people disavowing lynchings? When his killers were fined $3,000, where were these moral, do-gooding folks? Personally, I think half the Senate was making dog-eating jokes and mocking his mom's accent.

What about Matthew Shepard? What about Diallo? What about civilians shot in front of their homes or thrown off bridges in Iraq by U.S. troops? These are contemporary lynchings which are fun and good entertainment because we are killing people, not old people from a racist era...

Can we stop apologizing for past atrocities while we simultaneously commit new atrocities to apologize for later when it is too late?
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