Slavery: A crutch for blacks

Mychal Massie

Posted: January 30, 2007

Virginia state Del. Frank Hargrove, R-Hanover, may not have been politically correct
when he addressed a proposed resolution calling for Virginia to apologize for
slavery, but in the purview of this essayist he was far from incorrect.
Hargrove was correct in saying: "The present Commonwealth [of Virginia] has
nothing to do with slavery … nobody today had anything to do with it,"
and "it’s counterproductive." But it was his final comment – "I
think personally our black citizens should get over [slavery]" and "by
golly we’re living in 2007" – that needs repeated voicing.

His opening comments created a tempest in a teapot, but it was his ending comments
that should make his critics hang their heads. It is 2007 – at what point
do we move on? How much longer – how many more centuries will blacks dine
on the Barmecidal dinner of "it’s because of slavery"? What tangible
bit of difference will such an apology make in the everyday lives of blacks?
More to the point, how many blacks go to bed praying for an apology for something
they have only read about? I submit that slavery can be a primary cause of disaffection
for blacks, but only because they use it as a crutch, not because it has any
relative bearing on said individuals’ lives today.

A sponsor of the bill, Donald McEachin, D-Henrico County, claims the proposed
measure "is meant to be a resolution that is part of a healing process,
a process that still needs to take place even in 2007." Maybe King Salim
Khalfani, head of the Virginia NAACP, didn’t get that memo because his words,
"You’re damned right [whites] owe an apology" and "[whites] need
to repair the damage," in no way sounds like a warm, fuzzy, kum bay yah,
we’re all in this together soliloquy to me. They sound as brutish and confrontational
as McEachin’s comments sound deceitfully disingenuous.

Blacks do not own the market on past suffering and injustice – yet today,
blacks disproportionately (we are led to believe) suffer the effects of a rocky
beginning in America. I submit alleged suffering has nothing to do with slavery,
but rather, everything to do with one’s mental outlook and approach to life’s
consequences, based in large part on decision making.

The owner of my favorite Italian restaurant arrived in America in the mid 1960s.
He had no money and spoke not one word of English. His first job was in a New
York pizzeria, and it took long years of struggling to overcome his lack of
money and English skills – but he always "believed that in America
he could be more." Korean friends opened a produce stand in the worst part
of the city. They lived in the back of the store, but today, their children
attend prestigious Ivy League universities.

In 1851, Irish immigrants arrived in New York aboard "coffin ships,"
so named because, on the average, 15 percent or more of the immigrant passengers
on those ships died at sea. They lived in the worst slums ever imagined –
yet within 20 years they had transformed themselves. Italians and Jews suffered
similarly. Yet they transformed themselves by taking low-paying and often dangerous
jobs. African immigrants arrive here today from some of the poorest communities
on earth, yet in less than one generation, they have transformed themselves.

The reason for same is easy – it is because they come/came here prepared
to take advantage of the American dream. Blacks, who have been here for centuries,
are stuck on trying to extort an apology for something no one alive for at least
a century has been involved with, and even then, not everyone participated in.

I once wrote, "America is not responsible for the accouchement of slavery"
(July 15, 2003). I now add to that: Slavery has become the crutch of those inspired
to underachieve, not achieve, cause for resentment of those who do achieve,
and/or to be used as currency for those seeking to achieve based on immiseration.

"The average white person" doesn’t owe blacks special dispensation
– in fact, no white person does. Blacks owe it to themselves to stop trying
to extort benefit out of the past and grasp the overwhelming opportunity of
the present. Slavery has nothing to do with not having better homes, better
jobs or better lifestyles – but purpose and goals do. Low graduation rates
have nothing to do with slavery – but purposefully failing, so as not
to be "white," and nonexistent parents do.

If McEachin wants an apology, he should start by looking in the mirror –
that is to say, he should apologize for being so offensively wrong-minded. He,
and those of his ilk, should apologize for misleading blacks through bitterness
and resentment.

I suggest that those eager to exact an apology start with Anthony Johnson or
his modern-day ancestors. I suggest they revisit his 1654 court case in Northampton,
Va. I further suggest that those eager for an apology send a letter of request
for same to their nearest mosque or imam – and not just for 9-11 –
because no group has played a more prominent role in the African slave trade
than Muslims.

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