Monday, January 07, 2008

New Jersey Assembly Apologizes For Slavery



By Tom Hester, Jr. Associated Press Writer
8:40 PM EST January 7, 2007

TRENTON, N.J. - The New Jersey Assembly on Monday apologized for the state's role in slavery.

By a 59-8 vote, the Assembly approved a resolution expressing "profound regret" for New Jersey's role in slavery.

The Senate was also scheduled to act on the measure, but hadn't yet done so as of 8:30 p.m.

If the Senate passes the measure, New Jersey would become the first Northern state to apologize for slavery.

Supporters argued the apology would help New Jersey profess remorse for its slave trade involvement.

"This resolution does nothing more than say New Jersey is sorry about its shameful past," said Assemblyman William Payne, D-Essex, who sponsors the resolution.

Opponents said the apology would be a meaningless gesture.

Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris, said everyone deems slavery an abomination.

"But this was a sin that was atoned for in blood 150 years ago by the death of 650,000 Americans," Merkt said, referring to the Civil War.

He said many New Jersey families descend from immigrants who arrived after slavery was abolished.

"America does not and has never accepted the notion of collective guilt," Merkt said. "We can all, and should all, express profound sorrow about the evils of slavery, but none of us can truly apologize for the institution because neither we nor anyone we represent was in any way responsible for it."

Legislators in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia have issued formal apologies for slavery. The New Jersey measure is proposed as a resolution used to express the Legislature's opinion without requiring action by the governor.


The proposal expresses "profound regret for the state's role in slavery and apologizes for the wrongs inflicted by slavery and its aftereffects in the United States of America."

It states that in New Jersey, "the vestiges of slavery are ever before African-American citizens, from the overt racism of hate groups to the subtle racism encountered when requesting health care, transacting business, buying a home, seeking quality public education and college admission, and enduring pretextual traffic stops and other indignities."

"Making a stand for human decency, whether one generation too late or many generations too late, is never a waste of time," Payne said.

According to the proposal, New Jersey had one of the largest slave populations in the Northern colonies and was the last state in the Northeast to formally abolish slavery, not doing so until 1846.

The state didn't ratify the constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery until January 1866, a month after it had already become federal law.

Payne said an apology would comfort black residents, who make up 14.5 percent of New Jersey's 8.7 million residents.

"This apology is not for deceased slaves," Payne said. "It's an apology for their descendants. It's an apology for the ages and all mankind."

10 comments:

Rachel E. said...

First off, why did he need to apologize again? For the desendents? No offense, but don't you think that is a bit much? He wasn't responsible, the current government wasn't responsible, nor are the people today responsible. It was a tragic and horrible time in our nations' (and worlds') history and I pray people have learned from it. Slavery was based on ignorance about the origin of ethnicity. There is only one race, the human race. The idea that everyone needs to keep apologizing and walking on eggshells to prevent hurting anyone's feelings is crazy. We are all human beings and it's time we start acting like brother's and sister's to eachother instead of trying to degrade based on what has happened in the passed. The ill use of blacks in the past is no different than the ill use of whites today. By ill use I am referring the constant reminders of what ancestors who have long been buried did to any ethnic group different than their own. That is just as wrong as slavery. I think the sooner people live in today instead of yesterday and embrace the differences in ethnic background, the sooner we can step out of the dark ages of ignorance and move ahead in life.

Monica Roberts said...

Racxhel,

One of the reasons that there's STILL animosity between African-Americans an white Americans is because we HAVEN'T received that apology from the FEDERAL govermnnment.

The Feds can apologize to Japanese Americans for incarcerating them in camps for 4 years during World War II and pay them reparations for doing so, but you can't (or won't) apologize or pay us for the 246 years of suffering inflicted on my ancestors.

It's easy for you and other whites to say leave it in the past. You're not the one looking for your ancestors in the property room records of county courthouses or needing DNA tests just to get an idea what part of the African continent your ancestors came from.

What ails African-Americans (and white Americans as well) has its roots in slavery. The sooner that ALL Americans come face to face with that past instead of tip toeing around it is when we can finally put it behind us.

Unknown said...

All I can say is get over it. Live in the present and strive for a better future. Dwelling on the negativities of the past benefits no one. The wound will never heal if you keep scraping off the scab. New Jersey, you just re-opened the wound again. It's embarrasing to me that a state would think that it is necessary to apologize for something that happened over 160 years ago. It's amazing to me the effect that special interest groups can have in this country...

Monica Roberts said...

Chuck,
I'll get over slavery when y'all apologize for it.

I'm sick of hearing white people disrespectfully spouting conservarhetoric and saying that crap because they don't want to come to terms with the fact that their great-great-great grandparents either participated in the slave trade or were beneficiaries of it.

It's amazing to me and other African-Americans how deep in denial white Americans are about the effects of the slavery and the fact that the color line and racism PREDATES the founding of the United Sates as a nation.

Rachel E. said...

I am certain that neither I nor Chuck even stated in our comments that we were white. What did you base that assumption on? Do you think there are no black people out there who disagree with you?

Second, it is not my intention to lessen the effects that slavery has on anyone. I wanted to focus the attention on the fact that people need to get over it. How many presidents and politians have to make apologies for it? All of them? Will that make those dwelling in the past, look to the future? Abraham Lincoln stood up for the injustices toward blacks long ago. The North stood up for that freedom as well. Lives were lost for the freedom of slaves. Sure, it has been a battle to have equal rights. Isn't that what Martin Luther King Jr. fought for? It took a long time for rights to come around. As far as I am concerned, slavery ended long ago. Blacks have long since received equal rights. Yet, there are groups of blacks that refuse to let go. Oh, right, I forgot. You need a public apology. How many of them, may I ask? Since we are on the trail of apologizing for things our ancestors did, why don't we go to England, open an old wound, scrape the scab off (like Chuck said) and ask them for the public apology for all they did to white ancestors because of their religious beliefs? Why don't we have all the Germans in the world apologize for the atrocious things their ancestors did to the Jewish people during World War II? Better yet, why don't we have all the men in the US apologize for their ancestors not giving our female ancestors an equal voice in politics? It all comes down to forgiveness and forgetting about it. I am not saying forget about it and pretend it never happened. I am all for teaching our future generations about the history of blacks in America and the injustices they lived through. But the key word is lived. The only reason so many people can't forgive is because they forget it is history. History makes us stronger, fighting about it makes us weaker.

Monica Roberts said...

Rachel,
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. All we have to do is look at the current mess in our country to realize that.

Just by you and Chuck's reactions to this post I can reasonably presume that you are white even if you didn't identify yourselves as such. It's usually white people who spout the 'get over it' conservative rhetoric.

FYI, the Germans not only apologized to Jews for the Holocast, they have paid out BILLIONS in reparations. There are Holocaust musuems in Washington, all over the world and in various cities in the United States and that hasn't destabilied the country noreso than the last forty years of nasty GOP political tactics have.

So what are whites 'scurred' of in terms of realistically talking about slavery and its past and PRESENT effects on US society?

For example, there's 10 of this country that will not vote for African-Americans PERIOD because of racist beliefs instilled over the period chattel slavery was legal in order to justify it. The Constitution says I'm 3/5 of a human being.

Emancipation only happened 143 years ago

It's debatable your assertion that African-Americans have received equal rights when the justice system still has major disparities between how minotity defendants are treated vis a vis white ones.

The various states expressing 'profound regret' for slavery is a nice start, but the public apology for African-Americans that will start the healing has to come from the White House.

Cacau said...

Hey Monica I am white and you are right! I don't put much stock in the symbolics of apologies, would rather see some meat on the table like free college education for all black students (if ya could somehow take into account the mixed-race and recent black immigrants). Racism didn't end with Emancipation or Appomattox. We had 100 years of "Jim Crow" laws, lynching, etc. I have ancestors, northerners, who fought in the Union Army, got wounded, etc. Their descendants, 100 years later (my parents' generation) were still major racists! We're still dealing with this garbage, too, like the conversion of the southern states into Republican party bastions because the white racists didn't like JFK & LBJ getting on the civil rights bandwagon. That was in the 60s and 70s, brainchild of Nixon & Harry Dent (the "Southern Strategy"). They wouldn't admit at the time it was racism, but Harry Dent did before he died. We still have a lot of these yahoos running the country, like the current moron-in-chief.

Rachel E. said...

Okay,there really isn't any use to arguing about all this. I am sorry if I have said anything to offend you as a person representing your "race". It was never my intention to come off as a person who was calloused to your needs as a human being or group of human beings in need of healing. I can understand the hurt that you and other blacks feel when you go through all the afore mentioned struggles to heal as a group. I do hope and pray that one day you will find that healing that you need to move on with your lives. Just as I am sure there are many other people out there that need some sort of apology/statement to reconcile their differences or anger. Whether it be something from long past or recent events.

Good luck on your search for answers and your fight for reconciliation.

Pkai said...

Richard Merkt Morris is a pompous self righteous jackass SOB as only a Godless idiot white supremacist would make such asinine remark. Remarks like his are just another reason why the majority of Blacks do not vote for Republicans. This jerk just doesn't get it!!! Its not merely about whether or not the people who instituted, participated or were direct recipients of the slavery market are alive today, its the ramifications slavery left on the lives of Black people and their psychic. Slavery wasn't just an abominable atrocity, it was the state of mind which allowed one race of people to feel they were superior and the supreme God of another people. It was that ill conceived state of mind which galvanized white folk to feel they had the inherent right to institutionalize another race of people and inflict innumerable savage atrocities and the mental and physical harm which ensued for years to come. It was that very same racist superior state of mind inherent in your generations thereby inincorporated within every institution in the U.S. which abominably affected blacks for generations!

The fact that white people like Assemblyman Richard Merkt want to claim they were not directly responsible for such Barbaric, Atrocious, Savage, inhumane acts against an innocent people which indisputably has no validity in the Bible nor in reality of Black Folks lives. For those very same Bibles that most of these hypocrite politicians pro port to sit in church every Sunday and read, proclaiming their religious beliefs to the world, professing to believe in "God"...those very same Bibles which a 12 year old child could comprehend, tell us that.....We are responsible for the Sins of our Forefathers. That very same Bible also tells us that the Esau/Edomites/Whites live in their own "Vainness" which even those of the lowest common sense can comprehend. For it is written that 'You should pray for the sins of your forefathers as you Will Not be Held Blameless!!!

It is also written throughout those very same Bibles, these politicians profess to believe in "The sins of the father shall be visited upon the son" "For the Seed of Generations to come" "Even up to the 4th and 5th Generation" Whether or not these Godless politicians believe in the very same Bible they've touted and professed to the world to believe in for generations, only they themselves and the Father above truly knows. The fact remains that the blood of your forefathers runs through your lineage, therefore White people of this generation are just as responsible for what their forefathers did as if they committed these Savage, Inhumane, Barbaric acts directly themselves. The fact remains that the majority of Blacks undoubtedly hold whites responsible for their suffering and having to bear the brunt of your racist, superior attitude and actions, whether committed directly or indirectly you should not be in doubt as Blacks have yet to be compensated for the genocide on their lives and the lives of their loved ones, whether it be their parents, grandparents or great grandparents, the fact remains that Racism exists in White America and has abominably affected the lives of Blacks, the lives of their children past, and children to come which has been a harsh dose of reality for far too many generations!!

Pkai said...

Or maybe this Jackass Republican Merkt feels "Oh Well, So What if your great grandparents died or suffered from the ramifications of slavery or the generations afterward suffered in poverty bearing the brunt of your racist economic and social systems long after slavery was abolished....As long as the majority of Black Folk today are alive and living ' the lap of luxury' in a non-racist, libertarian, Equal Justice for All in American Society! Thus should be happy and tell all Whites "Thank Ya Massa!!!!! for bringing us out of slavery to become slaves within your racist institutions equating prejudice, bigotry and racism with your national emblem failing to understand that Freedom, Liberty and Justice belong to All !!!

Many blacks will never know their ancestry, their financial inheritance, nor the love and wisdom passed down from their great grandparents and black ancestors. Many blacks will never be able to trace their genuine roots, many blacks will never have the luxury of living that "Rich Off Black Slavery" financial security passed down from generations within the realm of their families. What Blacks today have undoubtedly inherited is the emotional and psychological baggage of a legacy passed down from generations knowing their great grandparents, Black forefathers and ancestors died from unspeakable, savage, barbaric, inhumane acts committed by whites...merely because of the 'Color of their Skin'

Yet Mr. Merkt in his jackassdom sits in his senate office today, having the audacity to tell All Blacks that
' Since He did not personally commit any of these Barbaric Savage Acts upon Blacks, He does not bares any Responsibility' Well correct some of us if we are wrong, but the name "Merkt" sounds "Jewish" maybe its time some of you Black folk should start digging a little deeper into what role these "Jews" played during the time when Blacks were enslaved and just how many decades they have held those responsible for the atrocities committed against them as "Guilty"