16.1.07

Get Over It

Del. Frank D. Hargrove, 79, a state legislator in Virginia, drew a little criticism with something he said. He opposed a measure that would apologize on the state’s behalf to the descendants of slaves. In an interview he said slavery ended nearly 140 years ago with the Civil War and added that “our black citizens should get over it.” He was also quoted saying “are we going to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ?”

Not surprisingly, black lawmakers were upset. Del. David L. Englin also criticized Hargrove’s remarks. His response, however, recalling that his grandparents were driven from their homes in Poland “by people who believed that as Jews, we killed Christ,” seems to reinforce the notion that Jews do not like the entire Jewish population continually being charged with killing Jesus. And I would agree with that part. I see no point in holding someone accountable for something that they had no actual role in, much less one that happened 2000 years before they were born.

Since yesterday happened to be Martin Luther King Day, before I go on I would first like to say that I support most of what King was working for. But I have to ask, at what point are his goals met?

I would also like to throw in that Get Over It was not a good movie.

Let's briefly discuss a similar issue: the war in Iraq. What was our goal in Iraq? To remove Saddam from power. We did that. We then had to stay to help establish a new democracy. They've voted on new leaders. We're still there now because we have to stop the 'sectarian violence'. At what point will we ever be able to say, "Okay, we can leave now that things in Iraq are perfect." We could be there 50 years and things still might not be as good as we'd like. Does that mean we've done enough already and don't need to spend any more resources? Or does that mean we have an obligation to keep working and spending to continue trying to improve things there? I don't have an answer right now.

But back to the original topic. Is perfect racial equality even an attainable goal? Is it possible to completely eliminate racism, like it was with smallpox? I don't think so. I view racial equality as an asymptote, something we should trend toward, but which we may never actually converge on before infinity.

I think at some point, we have to make an effort to move on and stop blaming things on past injustices. Slavery was bad, there's no debate there (although it was very very good, economically), but we ended it 140 years ago, and there's not much more we can do about it now. Of course I know that things aren't completely equal, and I do not have a problem with continuing to work to make them more equal. But how much do we have to do before African-Americans can see us as equals, and judge us not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character, and we can join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

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