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Apology for Slavery

Back in 2009 the Senate made a unanimous resolution to apologize for slavery. “You wonder why we didn’t do it 100 years ago,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), lead sponsor of the resolution, said after the unanimous-consent vote. “It is important to have a collective response to a collective injustice.” One year prior the house made a similar apology except the senate’s version is more explicit about whether descendants of slavery are entitled to reparations. The senate recognized and apologized for slavery, however, it did not want to use this admittance for claims for reparations. The resolution did at least acknowledge slavery and representative Tom Harkin called it a “important and significant milestone” . Dealing with the issue at the time was of no coincidence, with the election of now TWO TERM PRESIDENT Obama it was an issue representative Stephen I. Cohen fought for ten years ago and never stopped for it.

Cohen does add to this resolution and sums up the feeling of the moment. “There are going to be African-Americans who think that [the apology] is not reparations, and it’s not action, and there are going to be Caucasians who say, ‘Get over it.’ . . . I look at it as something that makes people think.” Republicans at the time were supportive of the resolution, even though college professor of political science Carol M. Swain says the republicans should have pushed for the measure and calls it “meaningless” since the democrats already have Barack Obama and a large minority vote. “The Republican Party needed to do it,” Swain said. “It would have shed that racist scab on the party.” “It doesn’t fix everything, but it does go a long way toward acknowledgment and moving us on to the next steps to building a more perfect union, doing the things that Martin Luther King would talk about, like building a colorblind society,” said Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.).

Charles Ogletree, the Harvard law professor who has championed restitution was consulted and supported the resolution, but says this is not a substitute for reparations. Randall Robinson, author of “The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks,” said he sees the Senate’s apology as a “confession” that should lead to a next step of reparations. “Much is owed, and it is very quantifiable,” he said. “It is owed as one would owe for any labor that one has not paid for, and until steps are taken in that direction we haven’t accomplished anything.”

Apology to Native Americans

African-Americans weren’t the only one owed an apology for genocidal acts against their kind. Native Americans also suffered in this country greatly. The apology came in 2009 in a spending bill that was unrelated, the Defense Appropriation Act of 2010 was a 67 page bill where the recognition for the suffering shed light. On page 45 of the bill it states “Apology to Native Peoples of the United States” in section 8113. “The United States, acting through Congress,” states Sec. 8113, “apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States;” and “expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together.”

Though this serves as an admittance to the long history of hardship it does not give leeway for liability. “Nothing in this section authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States,” states the apology. The apology also urges the President of the Unites States to “acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land.”  In the two years of the enactment a public announcement by the Obama administration has yet to come to the Native Americans. The rhetoric in the bill actually came from two senators who tried to make this happen back in 2004. Senators Sam Brownback(R) and Byron Dorgan(D) proposed a Native American Apology Resolution in 2008 and 2009 that was shot down.

In December 19, 2012 the apology was read by Mark Charles a representative for the Navajo nation. He hosted a public reading in front of Capitol in Washington, D.C. “This apology was buried in H.R. 3326, the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act,” wrote Charles on his Reflections from the Hogan blog. “It was signed by President Obama on Dec. 19, 2009 but was never announced, publicized or read publicly by either the White House or the 111th Congress.” “Given the context, the appropriations sections of H.R. 3326 sounded almost nonsensical,” wrote Charles. “But there was something very deep and meaningful about hearing them being read by Native Americans. To me it sounded almost like a silent form of protest. We were not pointing fingers, nor were we calling out our leaders by name, we have just highlighted the inappropriateness of the context and delivery of their apology.”

Apology to the Japanese 

In 1988 under President Reagans signature the Civil Liberties Act was initiated. Under this act compensation was given to more than 100,000 Japanese descendants. The legislation offered an apology and wait for ..wait for it…...$20,000 dollars a piece to each surviving victim. It did take over ten years of campaigning from the Japanese American community for them to get the win for congressional approval. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the act, the Civil Liberties Act was put on display at the national archives right alongside the original executive order 9066 which authorized the internment. Marielle Tsukamoto grew up in an internment camp said “shivers up and down [her] back” because she realized it ruined lives.

According to Bruce Custard a senior curator says the exhibition is a potent reminder of what federal documents really mean. “They are filled with legalese, and again that to me reinforces the idea that from these sorts of legal decisions that our government makes, these kinds of consequences can happen.”  The camps themselves when described by John Tateishi were nothing more than makeshift barracks with cramped families and loved ones behind barbed wire. A majority of the internees were from the West Coast, where they were taken away from their own communities, liquidating their businesses when war authorities abducted them and placed them in the camps. Tateishi still remembers the embarrassment and degradation he felt during that time. “We came out of these camps with a sense of shame and guilt, of having been considered betrayers of our country.” He says that after the war most families never spoke about it. “There were no complaints, no big rallies or demands for justice because it was not the Japanese way.”

The turning point came out of the civil rights movement which inspired the younger generation to speak out and start the Japanese American Citizens League, “You have to sometimes bring your community, dragging and screaming behind you, but you better have strong convictions that what you’re doing is right,” he says. In 1980 an investigation was commissioned by Congress. The investigation gave a final report calling the incarceration a “grave injustice” caused by “racial prejudice, war hysteria and the failure of political leadership.” Tateishi says the campaign was less about compensation and more about the next generation. “There is a saying in Japanese culture, ‘kodomo no tame ni,’ which means, ‘for the sake of the children.’ And for us running this campaign, that had much to do with it,” he saysi. “It’s the legacy we’re handing down to them and to the nation to say that, ‘You can make this mistake, but you also have to correct it — and by correcting it, hopefully not repeat it again.’ ”

Apology for Hawaii 

November 23, 1993 President Bill Clinton signed United States public law 103-150 or what it is better known as “The Apology Resolution”. This new law was to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the January 17th, 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and a formal apology from the United States government.  Until 1893 the US recognized the Kingdom of Hawaii and the Hawaii Government as independent. It was given full and complete diplomatic recognition. From January 14th 1893 this all changed, the US minister assigned to the sovereign and independent Kingdom of Hawaii conspired with a small group of non-Hawaiians residents of the Kingdom of Hawaii and US citizens to overthrow the indigenous and lawful Government of Hawaii.

Queen Liliuokalani issued the following statement yielding her authority to the United States Government rather than to the Provisional Government:”I Liliuokalani, by the Grace of God and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the Constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom.”That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L. Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed a Honolulu and declared that he would support the Provisional Government.”Now to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do this under protest and impelled by said force yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”- Queen Liliuokalani, Jan 17, 1893

President Grover Cleveland sent a message to congress on December 18, 1893 about the accurate and detailed reports of the illegal acts of the conspirators and described these actions as “acts of war” with the help of a diplomatic representative of the United States that was given no authority from Congress. He acknowledged that a peaceful and friendly government people was overthrown and went on to say, “substantial wrong has thus been done, which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair” and called for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
The Congress
Apologizes to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893… and the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination;
Expresses its commitment to acknowledge the ramifications of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, in order to provide a proper foundation for reconciliation between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people; and
urges the President of the United States to also acknowledge the ramifications of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and to support reconciliation efforts between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people.

the logical consequences of this resolution would be independence.”
– Senator Slade Gorton (R-Washington), US Senate Congressional Record
Wednesday, October 27, 1993, 103rd Cong. 1st Sess.

The Germans did more than apologize

You in reading these articles I collected for this blog. I realized that an apology is not enough, especially when generations of lives have been lost.The Germans don’t get a lot of credit for making steps to right the wrongs of history. With the crimes against the Jews and the ancestors that were execrably taken just for living the Germans have apologized for the Holocaust almost 70 years ago. The Germans in addition to apologizing gave back more than 63 Billion in euros in reparations and millions in addition to that are still being paid out to Jews in Israel and Eastern Europe. In addition to all of that, so the Germans will not forget its past sins the German government also commemorates the Holocaust.


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