By Ida Hakim
Has our nation suddenly awakened, ready to acknowledge its history and build a more just future for these grandchildren we're about to leave it to? Or are we expected to accept a series of empty gestures in response to demands for justice and pretend that it's all better?
Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives, without debate and on an unrecorded voice vote, passed a non-binding resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow, stating that, "a genuine apology is an important and necessary first step in the process of racial reconciliation."
This decision was a surprise to many of us who support reparations for slavery. Over and over in the past, we have heard even the simplest proposals for an apology dismissed for fear that they will open the door to reparations.
Meanwhile, Congress continues to consent to a host of inequities including laws that incarcerate an entire generation of African American youth.
But now here it is -- an apology for slavery introduced by a white Freshman Congressman, Steve Cohen (D TN) who is defending his seat in the majority black Memphis Congressional District he first won as the only white candidate in a twelve-member field in 2006.
It's difficult to trust the intent of a gesture while faced with ironic contradictions, but let's be hopeful.
Black reparations leaders and organizations have, for many years, been discussing what it would take to repair damages, compensate victims, restore identity and provide restitution. Some believe than an apology could be a precursor to a national dialogue on reparations. So, to the US House of Representatives we say, "Thank you, whatever your motives. Now let's move ahead to the real conversation."