The House of Representatives apologized for slavery and the vicious inequality of Jim Crow. Wow. I'm not sure what to think. I could certainly delve into Rep. Steve Cohen's obvious agenda to win black votes on Aug. 7, or that last year Cohen (D-TN) wanted to become the first white member of the Congressional Black Caucus, but I won't. The apology has been approved, and let's talk about that.
Rep. Carolyn C. Kilpatrick, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, is calling the apology a milestone. Although it's been 143 years since emancipation and 44 years since the Civil Rights Act, I'm glad it has finally happened. I think. A federal recognition of enslaving a people who were forced to hand over their human rights so this country could profit from cotton, among other goods, is monumental. Reparations, in my opinion, are a bit far-fetched at this point, but I am interested in how they're going to "rectify the lingering consequences" as their apology suggests. I'm very interested in how they're going to work that. Aggressively overfund the public schools maybe? I wish.
American slavery was like no other — even the House's apology admits that — and the impact it left on the descendants is, well, often incomprehensible. And certainly many of us have triumphed and persevered, but I guess that's not the point. I guess it's just hard to accept a belated apology for an institution that humiliated and worked my people to the bone. That created so much turmoil, many of us are still struggling to put the black family back together, let alone find purpose in community.
I'm not a victim, or a cynic. I'm just not convinced that a federal apology has any weight. I'm certainly interested in how they're going to clean up the aftermath of one of the most dehumanizing systems on the planet, believe you me. But in the end, the real work must happen at home. We must tell our own stories, retell our histories — and I mean honestly and courageously. We must challenge ourselves and end the black-on-black violence and intra-racism and dismissive terminology like the N-word and the B-word.
I guess what I'm really feeling is that I'm good. I know me. I know my community. I know my history and my present. I'm already on a path toward full "descendant of slaves" recovery, meaning I work, I love, I fight for my human rights, and although I appreciate the federal apology, hey Uncle Sam, it's a bit too late for this brother.
Keith Josef Adkins is a playwright, screenwriter and regular blogger for TheRoot.com