First State to Ban Death Penalty May Be First Northern State to Apologize for Slavery

This week the New Jersey legislature will consider a measure expressing regret for its involvement in slavery.  I am skeptical of these resolutions, in large part, because it is not clear that the actions taken lead to anything substantial beyond the public statement.  It may simply be an easy way for our state legislatures to complete their terms with a sense that they have accomplished something meaningful in the name of race relations.  Still, if the debate in New Jersey only serves as a reminder that slavery was a national problem before it became "peculiar" to the South following the Revolution than perhaps it has some value. 

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3 comments… add one
  • PHW Jan 1, 2008

    Unfortunately, it’s mostly an empty gesture on the part of government to show the public “we’ve done something.”

  • Will Hickox Jan 3, 2008

    The absurdity of apologizing for something that ended a century before I was born is one reason why I’ll never go into politics.

  • Kevin Jan 4, 2008

    Will, — While I question the purpose behind these apologies I would not characterize them as absurd simply because the event in question occurred before my birth. It seems possible to apologize in the name of an organization or state without necessarily implying individual responsibility of any kind. Just curious, but do you also think it was a bad idea for the federal government to apologize for the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War? Obviously I don’t know whether you were alive then, but again, why should that matter?

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