Wednesday, February 13, 2008

White man apologizes. (World stays the same.)

Blogger Mes Deux Cents, in a comment posted here last night, mentioned a piece of news I hadn’t heard.

Australia’s prime minister, Kevin Rudd, formally apologized yesterday to the Aboriginal people, Australia’s original inhabitants, who now constitute 2 percent of the population.

In particular Rudd apologized for the “Stolen Generations” – the decades-long practice of removing certain Aboriginal children from their families, making them wards of the state.

Mes Deux Cents wrote: “A basic part of respect is acknowledging a wrong done. Until America actually apologizes in a real way, we are not moving forward.”

I’ve embedded a portion of Mr. Rudd’s apology above. Check it out. Ponder it.

Do you think it would do any good if a U.S. president were to issue a similar apology to people of African descent? Or to the American Indians?

Now, the Internet being what it is, some wiseguy Down Under has already uploaded a comical twist on this event. It’s embedded below. You don’t need to know squat about Australian history or politics to find it amusing:


AQUILOGY said...

He did a good thing by apologizing

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Greetings, Aquilogy. Thanks for the comment.

Are you writing from South Africa? May I ask you... was this apology in the news there? I came across it on a Nigerian news site, and it made news in India as well.

I'm wondering if this was big news everywhere in the world except the USA.

Michael Fisher said...

That's so nice. Now they gonna give back what they've stolen, yes?

Lolo said...

Does it help in terms of making the practical daily details of life more manageable? Of course not.

Does it help in terms admitting to just how wrong it was and acknowledging the pain and damage done to victims. Of course it does.

It's Pysch 101, really and is one of the most basic things we teach our children, hopefully. Take responsibility for your actions and apologise for harm done. That doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be forgiven either but you must allow the injured party to air their pain and their anger before any other truly constructive action can happen.

I am puzzled by people who insist on telling others to "get over it, what does that have to do with me, etc." because it signifies a huge disconnect in their own ability to extend compassion and respect for another's experience. Just because what happened to you wasn't a direct cause of my direct actions doesn't mean that you're not deserving of the time and energy it takes to state the history of your experience.

I don't think that our country will ever truly be at peace with one another, in terms of racial divide, unless we begin to officially admit to even the most simple facts of how the slave trade benefitted the first hundred years of our republic.

memomachine said...


Why should *America* apologize for anything? I'm an American and I have absolutely nothing to apologize for. I never owned slaves. My family never owned slaves.

Get over it.

Undercover Black Man said...

I think the reason I'm not all hung up on apologies is... the very act of making such an apology underlines the dominant power position of the apologizer, vis-a-vis the apologizees, if you follow me.

Why isn't anybody demanding that the present-day governors of the former Confederate States get together and formally apology to the rest of America for seceding... and triggering the Civil War.

Because the South lost, so who gives a shit about their feelings, contrite or otherwise?

To formally apologize for an old page in history is the entitlement of the power elite. It's the Pope apologizing for slavery. (Like Fisher says: Uhhh... can we have the gold back now?

I can understand how deeply touched the Aboriginal People were by the prime minister's gesture. And that whole "Stolen Generations" business was much more recent history than Southern slavery or the Trail of Tears.

But I don't expect an apology for shit. Well, maybe for the Iraq War. Let's see somebody apologize for something they actually did... not some guilt they inherited.

Anybody who's waiting on an apology before they do what they gotta do to uplift themselves... well, they've already given all power to the Man.

Anonymous said...

Will this stop the rampant alcoholism, child abuse, drug abuse and illiteracy that exist in many Aboriginal communities? No. Neither will large sums of money transferred to those communities in the form of reparations.

Lola Gets said...

One Aboriginal fellow was quoted as saying:
"Blackfellas get the words, whitefellas get the money." Something to that effect.


daughterofthedream said...

Wow! Did somebody really trot out "get over it" as their contributing comment? I didn't even know people still said that! I guess no convo involving racial ethnic people (especially) is complete without it though, lol.

I agree with lolo. Symbolically, I believe it is important to say OUT LOUD and IN PUBLIC that yes, these things happened and yes, great harm was done.

I tend to think 'people of color" don't really desire an apology per se. What they really want is for their experiences, their history and subsequent reality to simply be ACKNOWLEDGED!

After that, people of color have to keep striving; live lives of reparation instead of waiting on "reparations," as I once heard someone say

Matt Norwood said...

Let's be clear about who is apologizing to whom, and for what:

"We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians," he told parliament.

For the laws and policies of parliaments and governments. That is why this apology means something, and why the same apology to black Americans would mean something in the US.

The Australian government can't apologize on behalf of the entire population of Australia, or the white population of Australia. It can only apologize on its own behalf. Since the government is an entity that was in existence during the period in question and crafted the policies now regarded as immoral, it is well and good that it whould apologize for those policies.

Similarly, the US government would do well to apologize for US government laws and policies that we now recognize as having been unjust. "We were wrong to legally recognize slavery. The practice of owning slaves was reprehensible, and government enforcement of the laws that perpetuated it was immoral."

Why is this important, you ask? For one thing, there are still a lot of Confederate apologists running around the country, and such an apology would formally denounce them as taking a stance contrary that of the federal goovernment. For another, it would formally put the US government in opposition to the positions of people like David Horowitz, with their claims about how slavery was the bet thing that ever happened to black people.

There are other reasons an apology like this is an important, if not sufficient, act in beginning to come to terms with our history.

It's important to note that the Australian and US situations are different for a number of reasons. First, much of the racist law in the US was quite conspicuously a matter of state, not federal, law. The white supremacists made extensive use of the federal system that granted leeway to the states to use and abuse their own residents. In Australia, in contrast, the national government has much more clear-cut authority, in my understanding. So while a single national Australian apology addresses the biggest question, a comparable US apology would have to be made not just by the feds (which, arguably, has already happened a number of times since 1863), but also by the individual states that supported slavery, Jim Crow, etc. I'm not holding my breath for that.

novelera said...

A good movie dealing with the removal of Aboriginal children from their families is Rabbit Proof Fence.

Mes Deux Cents said...


Here's a question; I wonder if Barack Obama, should he be elected, would apologize for slavery on behalf of the U.S. Government?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Would it count if he did, MDC? Don't the people who crave an apology wanna hear a white man say it?

Undercover Black Man said...

Novelera: Thanks for reminding me about "Rabbit Proof Fence." My sis saw it when it was out, and told me it was great. I never got around to seeing it.

memomachine said...


@ daughterofthedream

"Wow! Did somebody really trot out "get over it" as their contributing comment? I didn't even know people still said that! I guess no convo involving racial ethnic people (especially) is complete without it though, lol."

I did. Why?

Because oppression happens. And sitting around waiting for an apology is worthless. And the apology, if forthcoming, is also worthless. The only way to really deal with something like this is to move past it and try to succeed as best you can in life.

*shrug* hey point to me the tragic story of blacks in America. And I'll point to you to the *millions* of even more tragic stories of blacks outside America.

Speaking as a first generation immigrant: You're the luckiest people on the planet being an American. And there are **billions** who would take your place, regardless of circumstances, in a heartbeat.

And many of them are African.

So really. How bad is your life?

memomachine said...



"Novelera: Thanks for reminding me about "Rabbit Proof Fence." My sis saw it when it was out, and told me it was great. I never got around to seeing it."

The same process happened in the USA. Native indian children were forcibly taken from their families, put into specific purpose boarding schools and underwent forced education which also included, I believe, beatings if they spoke their native language such as Hopi.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Memo Machine,

The Canadians did the same sort of thing too.

memomachine said...


@ Mes Deux Cents

"The Canadians did the same sort of thing too."

Yeah. There were plenty of those weird turn-of-the-century pseudo-scientific groups. Eugenics is another one that comes to mind. A lot of innocent people got forcibly sterilized from that here in the USA.

What these things are is a prime example of people with good intentions, they actually thought they were *helping* if you can imagine that, going straight to, deservedly, Hell. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

But stuff like this isn't all one sided either. The Turks, and many other muslims, preferred to make bodyguards out of kidnapped white Christian boys that they would force to convert to Islam and then raise within the Islamic faith as soldiers and bodyguards.


I wonder if all of those white Christian families who've had sons forcibly stolen from them are waiting around for an apology.

Renee said...

A good reason this is important is that there were people arguing over the numbers, just how big a deal it was or whether the Stolen Generation even happened at all.

Denialism can be a poison and, you know, hurt people in the present.