Listeners React to Slavery Apology, Saying 'Thank You'

The program's listeners have strong reactions to recent apology from the House of Representatives for slavery and Jim Crow laws. They also weigh in on whether sending "thank you" cards is an old fashioned gesture, or a good-manners must.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for BackTalk where we lift the curtain in what's happening in the Tell Me More blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me. Hey, Lee.

LEE HILL: Hey, you, Michel. So, this week, the House of Representatives passed a resolution issuing an unprecedented apology to black Americans for slavery. Now, the resolution also apologized for years of Jim Crow laws that caused African Americans to be treated as second class citizens. Now, just yesterday, our conversation with Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, who authored the resolution was topping the charts as one of the most emailed stories on npr.org. And of you go to our blog, you'll see a heated debate about the apology, whether it was too little too late or even necessary at all. Here's blogger Tricia, who says the U.S. should pay up.

TRICIA (Caller): I'm a white woman whose ancestors arrived post-enslavement. I, however, support reparations to be made to African American institutions from U.S. government and corporations. Yes, the issue is complicated, but issues of justice and injustice in our nation often are.

HILL: Thanks, Tricia. And also on the blog is this note from Mark. I'll read it. Why should Americans today pay for the sins of our forefathers? Nobody alive today in the United States has owned slaves and nobody alive today has been a slave. Whereas I abhor the fact of slavery, I haven't done anything wrong and will not have my tax dollars go into pay for reparations for anyone.

MARTIN: Thank you, Mark. Moving on. Lee, I must ask, do you send out thank you notes?

HILL: Yes, I try my best to. It was really more of a big thing in college when extended family would send a couple of dollars in envelopes. So, I try to. Yeah.

MARTIN: OK. Well, in this week's Mocha Moms, we talked about whether sending a thank you note, especially on behalf of young children, is still necessary and appreciated or just old fashioned. Now, maybe I should not have been, but I was actually a little surprised by how this topic took off on the blog. Here's what Camille had to say.

CAMILLE (Blogger): I personally think the whole thank you note thing is passe, at least among people my age. I mean, these days, people, you know, put a note on your Facebook wall and that's about as much contact you have with them, so getting a thank you note is really just over the top. So, actually if I get thank you notes now, I'll send you a welcome card because it's just as polite and pointless.

MARTIN: OK, Camille, but I have to tell you, do not be shocked when your relatives think that that check in the envelope for graduation is also passe. It may be old school, but guess what? Old school people are the ones who write those checks and who do want to see that note. But, thank you for weighing in.

HILL: You should send her a thank you note, Michel.

MARTIN: BackTalk is our thank you note. Anything else, Lee?

HILL: Well, finally, we did a segment yesterday on Africa Rising, a traveling festival started by the editor of Nigerian newspaper This Day. It's designed to showcase Africa's other side by spotlighting social consciousness and the rich presence of fashion and the arts on the continent. Tonight, the group is in Washington D.C., along with a few big names in the music scene to host a fashion show and concert. In response to yesterday's piece, we received this note from Renee.

RENEE (Blogger): I just wanted to thank you so much for your piece today on the Africa Rising and fashion from Africa. Finally a fluff piece on Africa, we definitely need more of them. Your guests were so right, fashion and music of fabulous ways to keep the interest of the rest of the world. The continent has so much more than disease, poverty and the (unintelligible).

MARTIN: Thank you, Renee, and thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: Remember, with Tell Me More, the conversation never ends. You might hear yourself on the next BackTalk. To tell us more about what you think, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That number again is 202-842-3522, or go to the Tell Me More page at npr.org and blog it out. Thank you note, optional.

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