Why are some Black folks so happy to hear an apology
from people who don’t mean it?
There are nearly a million African Americans in prison
– one out of eight inmates on the planet
– a gulag of monstrous proportions, clearly designed to perpetuate
the social relations that began with slavery. We demand an end to
those relations, not an insincere, risk-free “apology” that sets
not one prisoner free.
It is appropriate that the great anti-lynching leader,
Ida B. Wells (1862-1931),
the murder of nearly 5,000 Blacks at the hands of white mobs in
the terror-filled years that followed the death of Reconstruction,
be verbally honored by Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Virginia Republican Senator George Allen. Yet both Senators
supported laws that will impose draconian equivalents of post-Civil
War “Black Codes” on inner city youth, who will now be designated
as criminal conspirators if they congregate in groups of three
No thank you, Senators Landrieu and Allen – the crime
you committed against us in May vastly outweighs your weak apology
in June. You have guaranteed that hundreds of thousands more young
Black people will be interned in your gulag – a crime against humanity.
And both of you are determined to commit more crimes. Should we
ask for an apology in advance?
There can be no absolution for those who continue
to profit from past crimes, and plot new ones. Lynch law was the
effective law of the South – and, truth be told, the rest of the
United States – and the “lawful” authorities sanctioned it by refusing
to pass 200 anti-lynching bills. The terror of lynching created
the social relationships that resulted in white households accumulating
ten to twenty times as much wealth as Black households – our collective
national inheritance. An apology will not do.
Is that what our movement has been about all of these
generations – to get an apology from people who became rich on our
backs? There is a method to this racist madness, an assumption that
African Americans can be bought by a simple nod from a few white
people. Some of these racists will not even give us a nod – the
twelve or sixteen senators who did not join in the anti-lynching
vote, all but one of them Republicans.
The Republican Senate Leader made sure that no member would have
to go on record against lynching. However, are we supposed to be
grateful for a non-binding resolution that admits thousands of murders
were committed with the complicity of the United States government,
but that does not redress the wrongs in any way.
Where is the sense of justice in this apology? What
do the descendants of the terrorized class expect? That wrongs be
righted, or that those who have profited gain absolution?
Lynching was genocide
The United States Senate did not ratify the Convention
on Genocide until 1988,
40 years after African Americans circulated the petition, “We
Charge Genocide,” in an effort to make international law applicable
to the U.S. By this time, most of the former Dixiecrats had become
Republicans, and felt safe in blaming their former party for their
The United States, controlled by a Republican majority
and feckless minority of white Democrats whose greatest fear is
their Black constituents, is now engaged in a grand venture to export
the ideology of white terror, planet-wide. They have not learned
a thing. Having never practiced democracy on their own shores, they
claim a copyright to the concept. The fact that nobody believes
their claims does not phase them, because they are marching to the
tune of Manifest Destiny – the white man’s right to rule. It is
that belief that drew tens of thousands of whites to the lynching
fields of Georgia and Indiana,
for the sport of Negro-killing. Now they are in Iraq and Afghanistan,
claiming moral authority.
The march of civilization goes on, leaving the United
States behind. The bubble of news communication fools only those
inside. The rest of the globe sees its own interests, and recognizes
white arrogance, intuitively.
This intuitive knowledge, born of gruesome experience,
also informs Black Americans. Although surrounded by the same bubble
of misinformation as the rest of Americans, Blacks smell the lie.
The vast bulk of us see the “apology” for what it is – a scam, with
no substantial benefits, and less good faith. But there is a class
that is paid to say “Yes sir,” on command. Most of us pay them no
Lynch law was no law at all. It was pure white power
– the right to declare oneself a higher form of being, and reduce
the “other” to charcoal. The current rulers of the United States
are spreading lynch law to the far reaches of the planet. They claim
the right to “pre-emptive” warfare, and reject all other people’s
rights to live under collectively accepted rules. They wage war
against the concept of international law, just as they violated
every law that did not enshrine white privilege.
Nothing has changed, except the world. We will not
tolerate such criminality, anymore. In fact, we have collectively
called the behavior that white folks in the United States routinely
engaged in, criminal. It’s far too late for the U.S. Senate to pass
a non-binding resolution announcing some vague objection to lynching,
when they pass legislation that makes it a crime to be Black and
a youth, vote billions to fund a military machine that seeks to
enslave the planet, and rejects the authority of the World
Criminal Court. In doing so, they have made themselves outlaws.
We will not forgive, or accept an apology that does
not come with a change in power relationships. And we will reject
any so-called Black leadership that makes its own deal.
BlackCommentator.com Co-Publishers Glen Ford and
Peter Gamble are writing a book on Barack Obama and the Crisis of
Black Political Leadership.