We could all learn from Virginia’s example

When we hurt someone, it’s only polite to apologize for it. On Saturday, the Virginia legislature passed a resolution to apologize for the state’s role in slavery. Better late than never, right?

It’s great that Virginia wants to take responsibility for its past wrongs. It’s great that other states want to do the same (Missouri is looking at similar legislation). An apology 142 years after the end of the Civil War feels a bit “too little, too late.” No one from the era of slavery is even alive now to apologize. It is a good step toward bettering race relations and acknowledging their role in the evil that was slavery, but it still seems to lack something.

At this point, what can an apology do? It’s nice to hear, “I’m sorry,” but what does it actually do? It won’t take the world back hundreds of years to stop slavery from happening. It won’t repair the lives it destroyed. It won’t automatically fix race relations in this country.

That’s why we need more action across the country. Recently we’ve seen college students dressing up and promoting every black stereotype while holding “gangsta” parties. The controversy about the use of the n-word has grown so large, Stillman College in Alabama held a conference about it this past weekend. The racial damage caused by the reaction, or lack there of, after Hurricane Katrina still exists.

It’s important that we take responsibility for our past sins. We understand the argument that none of us physically owned slaves, but it’s an important symbolic gesture. This will help keep us from repeating these evils, and while it is not a quick fix, it’s a step in the right direction to improving such heated race relations. Though it is highly unlikely that America would ever become involved in slavery again, it is equally unthinkable that we would deny people their basic rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution based solely on their skin color. But America did both.

We hope the apology isn’t the end – and it probably isn’t; Virginia has been making progress. The people of Virginia elected L. Douglas Wilder as their governor in 1989, making him the first black governor in the country. According to CNN.com, in 2004, the legislature created a scholarship fund for blacks whose schools were shut down between 1954 and 1964.

Other states need to own up to their roles as well. Southern states weren’t the only ones profiting from slavery. The South provided the manual labor to supply the raw materials, but it was the North that took those materials, manufactured them and sold them around the world. Businesses in the North even controlled the shipping companies that brought Africans to America. If one state is going to take responsibility for its past, every state should do the same.

We need to come together and see past our differences. Virginia has taken the first step by apologizing. Now its time for everyone else to catch up. Then we can all take the next step together.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.