The last six months have been difficult for Virginia Republicans. The party has long talked of wooing black Virginians. Jerry Kilgore fought for that once it became clear that he was facing a loss and George Allen made that a fundamental part of his campaign, courtesy of Sen. Benny Lambert. More than anything else, the party’s constant fight for the black vote has highlighted their inability to get a toehold in that demographic.
In that light, the Republicans’ trio of recent high-profile embarrassments have been particularly harmful.
First came the series of revelations about then-senator George Allen’s racist background. The noose. The rebel flag. The racial slurs. The hate crimes. Then came Allen’s comment at The Breaks, in which he attacked an audience member based on snap (wrong) judgments based on the man’s skin color. The campaign tried four different excuses and, when none of them worked out, they tried for a belated apology, but nobody bought it. Virginia was a national laughingstock.
Then came Rep. Virgil Goode’s attack on newly-elected black lawmaker Rep. Keith Ellison. Like Allen at The Breaks, Goode judged Ellison on a single element — his religion — and concluded that Ellison was an immigrant, possibly illegal, and a cancer on the congress. Unlike Allen, Goode didn’t bother with apologizing. Again, Virginia was a national laughingstock.
Finally came yesterday’s comments from Rep. Frank Hargrove, an elderly white delegate from the Richmond suburbs. In this, his 25th year in office, Hargrove was faced with the proposed resolution apologizing for slavery and didn’t like what he saw. In comments to the Daily Progress‘ Bob Gibson, Hargrove suggested that blacks simply “get over it,” asking if next we might need “to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ.” (Thus making it a two-fer.) Whether Hargrove will apologize for his remarks remains to be seen. And yet one more time, Virginia was — is — a national laughingstock.
The Republican Party has been thick with excuses in every instance. A small number of Republicans have even leapt forward to defend the offending sentiment, apparently believing that they’ve found an ally in their hatred of Muslims, blacks, foreigners, or people who look funny, utterly unable to understand how much their bigotry damages their party.
This resolution apologizing for slavery may not accomplish much. But it certainly won’t harm anything. Reasonable people may be lukewarm about this bill. But opposing the bill is politically indefensible.
HJ728/SJ332 is a very public test for Republicans. If they pass this bill, they gain little or nothing. If the block this bill, they’ll set themselves back a decade, confirming the intent of everything that Allen, Goode, and Hargrove have said about “them” — non-whites, non-males, non-Christians, non-normal.
As a Democrat, I look forward to Republicans screwing this up. But as a human being, I find the prospect just plain depressing.
If they want their party to have a future in VA, at some point the non-flat-Earth crowd within the Virginia GOP is going to have to take their party back from the purveyors of race-baiting and religious intolerance. If the face of the Virginia GOP were Tom McCrystal, Cheri Lewis, Jim Duncan and Rick Sincere rather than Virgil Goode, George Allen, Ollie North and Frank Hargrove, they’d have no problem maintaining their dominance of VA politics for years to come.
@DaveNorris: Hear, hear!
In fairness you could add Sal Iaquinto and Terrie Suit to that list; they’ve said publicly that they support the slavery apology.
The RPV definitely needs to have a debate amongst themselves about this issue.
Great, now this story has gone national too. As a state, we have become the media’s conservative whipping boy. Mark Warner’s decision not to run in 2008 seems very prescient right now. Just being from Virginia would make him suspect in this political climate.
Some folks seem to agree with Del. Hargrove that we should “get over” slavery. I wonder if these same people oppose celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Shouldn’t we “get over it”? Do they oppose Civil War reenactments, Jefferson-Jackson Day, and Independence Day celebrations? Shouldn’t we just “get over it”?
Or, alternately, is it possible that our history is an essential element of our culture, of us as individuals?
Lets not forget that the new Republican Communications Director unapologetically displays a graphic on his blog that links to a anti-Muslim hate group.
How can he spin this story for the party when hes as much a part of it as a lot of other people?
I expect there’ll be an adjustment period as Shaun settles into his new job. He’s accustomed to speaking only for himself.
I’m sorry, but I think everybody is bringing the hammer down a little too hard on Hargrove. First of all why should a politician, be it Allen, Goode, or Hargrove, apologize for their true feelings? So they should apologize and lie to the public and say they don’t actually feel the way they actually feel? I lost respect (not sure if I had any to begin with) for Virgil Goode about his ignorant letter. But I gained respect for him because he didn’t apologize for his stance. I don’t agree with him, but I support his right to express his opinion, and I’m sure his constituents do as well. Same goes with Frank, except this time I actually agree with what is being said. I don’t think he meant “get over it” in let’s erase it from the history books and never talk about it, what he means is it is 2007 and slavery should no longer be a source of entitlement for blacks or a scapegoat for all of their problems. Whether or not you agree with that assesment is okay, I think there is worthy points of discussion on both sides, but it is not worth crucifying Hargrove over. How do you expect for Virginia to have a dialogue on race when people are afraid to open their mouth. I guess we should just let McEachin dictate the dialogue for us. I think the proposed apology is a waste of time that does nothing to address real issues facing the black community.
First, Jesus had it coming. Just saying. Second, I don’t respect anyone because of his unchanging, bedrock sincerity, i.e., “because he’s too stupid or stubborn or insane to learn.” I mean “I lost respect for Charles Manson for the Tate-LaBianca bloodbath but, dammit, you have to respect the fact that the man never wavered in his unfailing belief that killing a few well-to-do white people would trigger a race war from which he would emerge as de facto prince of California” just doesn’t cut it with me. Virgil Goode was wrong. Standing firmly by his wrongness will ultimately prove counterproductive for Virginians, which is terrible. Standing firmly by his wrongness and being made into a poster boy for the GOP might work out just great for my party, so it evens out. I’m for Allen, Hargrave, and him to rent an RV and start touring the USA with their arguments, as far as that’s concerned, and I surely hope the Democrats can scrape up the money it takes to make that journey a reality.
An apology in itself is silly; a formal acknowledgement that the Commowealth was wrong to sanction human chattel slavery, that it owes a debt to the enslaved that can’t be effectively repaid, that it promises henceforth to treat with the liberties of a human being as autonomous and untainted by color or religion lest it betray the best principles of Jefferson, Washington, and Madison, principles better than these men were themselves, that’s a sensible exercise. Hey, that’s sounds like a pretty good apology, too.
I love your suggestion – can we get that into writing in the General Assembly? I think the part about “hat it owes a debt to the enslaved that can’t be effectively repaid” might get a lot of people over their fear of reparations coming from this apology.
Goode is history. I wouldn’t give him a second thought. The overwhelming majority of decent Virginia Republicans in his district will ensure that he doesn’t run again (right?). No one can defend what he said.(right?). One would look so foolish to even try. I’m sure his apology is just at the tip of his tongue. In any event, he’s a Democrat who slipped a Republican cloak over his head a few years ago for the sake of expediency. But he looks like a Dixiecrat underneath. The same is probably true of Mr. Hargrove.
reparations? don’t even go there. the time has passed for that, No one alive today should have to pay for what happened then to people who where not alive to suffer the injustices of slavery. They are all in heaven or hell, and everything is sorted out already. So get over it. I was wondering, as horrible as slavery was, would we have America with out it? Not the way we know it today. Without the immigration populations that worked the northern factories for scratch, would we also have America with out it? Had it not been for the free/cheap labor would America be the leading nation of the world today? I don’t have the answers, but I think they are worth considering.
If the damn Romans wouldn’t have enslaved my distant relatives in Gaul…
@scofflaw: Are you suggesting that because America benefited, that slavery was somehow okay? ‘Cause if that’s not what you’re saying, I’m lost.
I’m not saying it was okay. It was for the most part very bad. In most cases evil, unfair, unjust, what have you. But it is worth wondering, with out slavery, what would America be like today? I think that requires historical research, but my first inclination is to say we wouldn’t be anything like we are today. Maybe we would still be under the British Crown. It isn’t so far fetched. I think honoring the sacrifice of slaves, and remembering the history of their suffering is important, but I think an apology is empty, and pointless. To use an analogy Hargrove should have used, its like asking the Egyptians to apologize to the Jews for enslaving them (yeah I know their is quite a time gap), the point being it is a part of history, when the last slave owner died, the time to apologize ended. Did Lincoln apologize for slavery? No. Did Johnson or Grant? No. Should they have? Maybe so. But the time has passed. An apology does nothing and means nothing.
Actually, he did. That was the purpose of Lincoln’s second inaugural address. He said, in part:
This features in Aaron Lazare’s “On Apology,” a book about the very concept of the apology.
Actually, yes, we would have been under the rule of the Crown longer. The South Sea Company, instituted in 1711 by Robert Harley, Lord Treasurer, in order to support the funding excesses of British government by monopolozing all slave trade between West Africa, Spain, and the North & South American colonies in exchange for taking over the national debt raised by the War of Spanish Succession. The value of this was closely tied to the outcome of the war and, unfortunately, while Britain won the war, South Sea lost many of its anticipated benefits regarding the slave trade business. Instead, the Treaty of Utrecht allowed Spain its full rights to its colonial trade, and the South Sea Co. was required to fulfill a slave quota set by Spain. (It made 96 voyages carrying some 30,000 slaves to the New World in the space of 25 years in order to do so.)
In 1719, limited by the treaty and pressed for cash, South Sea traded half Britain’s national debt for new shares in South Sea stock. It also acquired 16.5 million pounds from private shareholders among the aristocratic class. Everyone who was anyone was speculating in South Sea–it was the “It” stock for the throne and the upper echelons of Parliament.
The new shares were based upon air, much like the dot.com situation a few years back, and, in August 1720, when the stock prices reached approx. 1,000 pounds, the imbalance between actual assets and on-paper wealth created a bubble which burst. Resultant panic selling as the stock dipped bankrupted the purses of the King, the Prince of Wales, and most of the top members of the administration. The King replaced Harley with Robert Walpole, and Walpole decided to save the nation’s financial arse by revising and enforcing the various Navigation Acts, creating a closed trading loop between the American colonies, the Indies, and Mother England, effecting the price and sale of such goods as ink, tobacco, silk and coffee.
The most notable of Walpole’s acts was the Sugar/Molasses Act of 1733, which taxed & restricted the sale of rum and other alcoholic spirits. The colonies began to talk of rebellion.
@Scofflaw: “Honoring the sacrifice of the slaves.” Unless the word “sacrifice” means something very different for you, the slaves “sacrificed” nothing. It was forced labor, not volunteer work.
Of course Tim, they were forced. I think we all know that. Not by choice, I didn’t mean to suggest they signed up for slavery. I suppose I misspoke. My point is, the slaves of history should be honored in general because they endured immense hardship that most of us could not comprehend. And some might argue, that although they were coerced, their work was an important element of what shaped America into the nation it is today. So in short, honor the slaves, but don’t offer an apology to their decendants. honestly, what does an apology do? what is gained? I’m not saying I can’t be persuaded, but I need an argument that is better than blacks are a victimized people and I should be guided by white guilt go support an apology for something no one alive today had anything to do with.
@ Scoff: Ok, how about empowerment as a reason? I see this apology as a positive way to open up honest dialogue about who we are as a people, as a State, where we came from and what our future looks like, and how we bridge the differences–one of them being race–to create that future.
Virginia’s population is increasingly black, yet white folks are still in charge. Just look at the makeup of the state house and senate: There’s no proportional representation. White representatives are supposed answer to black constituents when elected to positions of power, but can they truly represent those constituents until the initial divide, slavery, is acknowledged and legitimately addressed? Do you really think Hargrove (and his ilk) gets what it is like to feel profiled, persecuted, prejudiced against? Of course not. His experience is one of empowerment, because no one has ever had an uncontrolled adverse reaction to him based solely upon his skin tone. He has to open his mouth to offend, bother, or worry someone. All the prejudices blacks currently experience here derive in some manner from the institution of slavery in this country.
To me, the issue isn’t “Blacks were victimized by slavery, so the State should apologize.” The issue is, “Can we acknowledge the past honestly and honorably so that every citizen can feel legitimated and enfranchised in the future?” Wounds need to be cauterized and cleaned in order to heal correctly.
Virginia is 19.9% black. The House of Delegates is 12% black and the Senate is 12.5% black.
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