On July 29, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives issued an unprecedented apology to African-Americans for the institution of slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow laws that for 90 years discriminated against Black people and made them third-class citizens in American society.
Nearly a year later, on June 18, the Senate passed a similar resolution, with at least one major difference: the Senate version explicitly warns that the resolution cannot be used in support of claims for restitution. The House then revisited the issue to conform its resolution to the Senate version.
“Apologies are meaningful when they come with something,” wrote award-winning journalist Yvonne R. Davis, in a June 2009 Huffington Post article about the government’s symbolic gesture to African-Americans.
Davis noted that each of the 60,000 Japanese Americans who survived those World War II to internment camps in California were given $20,000 for a total of $1.2 billion dollars for their pain and suffering.
Survivors of the Jewish Holocaust were paid over $86 billion in reparations for the plethora of crimes committed against them in WWII and billions more continue to be paid to Jews in Israel and in Eastern Europe.
On the other hand, when it comes to Black people, not only did the government’s apology come way too late, elected officials went out of their way to let African-Americans know they don’t deserve reparations for the pain, suffering and lives lost, even though the effects still linger today.