Regrets for slavery

By Walter E. Williams
Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Both chambers of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s General Assembly passed a resolution
saying government-sanctioned slavery "ranks as the most horrendous of all
depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation’s
history; and . . . the abolition of slavery was followed by . . . systematic discrimination,
enforced segregation, and other insidious institutions and practices toward Americans
of African descent that were rooted in racism, racial bias, and racial misunderstanding."
The General Assembly also expressed regret for the "exploitation of Native

Isn’t that nice? I agree that slavery was an abomination, but I’m going to
be even more generous than Virginia’s General Assembly. I regret the murder
of an estimated 61 million people whom the former USSR executed, slaughtered,
starved, beat or tortured to death. I also regret the Chinese government’s slaughter
of 45 million Chinese; Hitler’s slaughter of 6 million Jews; the Khmer Rouge’s
murder of 2 million Cambodians; the half a million Ugandans murdered by Idi
Amin’s death squads; the million Hutus and Tutsis murdered in Rwanda’s genocidal
bloodbath; and slavery that still exists in the Sudan and Mauritania.

A released inmate walks out of prison in Rwanda’s capital Kigali February 19,
2007. Rwanda on Monday released 8,000 prisoners accused of involvement in the
country’s 1994 genocide, prompting anger from survivors of the slaughter who
fear new ethnic killings. REUTERS/Arthur Asiimwe (RWANDA) All of these, and
many more, are horrible injustices at least as horrible as the slavery that
existed in the U.S. But after all the regrets and apologies for injustices,
what comes next? Let’s examine Virginia’s statement of regret with an eye toward
what it might mean.

I can personally relate to the Virginia General Assembly’s declaration. My
great-grandparents were slaves in the Virginia cities of Chase City and Newport
News. The General Assembly’s statement of regret for slavery means absolutely
nothing to me. If anything, it’s nothing less than a cheap insult and capitulation
of white delegates to black hustlers. Possibly, the whites who voted in support
of the declaration were mau-maued into it or they felt guilt over our history
of slavery. In any case, they should know that their actions mean little in
dealing with the day-to-day plight of many black Virginians — which has nothing
to do with slavery.

The U.S. murder rate is 5.6 people per 100,000 of the population. In the Commonwealth
of Virginia’s capital, Richmond, where the General Assembly meets, the murder
rate is 43 people per 100,000 of the population, making Richmond the city with
the third-highest murder rate in the nation, according to a 2005 FBI report.

What about black education in Virginia? According to the National Assessment
of Educational Progress (NAEP), black education is a disgrace. In 2003, 51 percent
of black eighth-graders scored below basic; 49 percent at or above basic; of
these, only 11 percent scored proficient. For black fourth-graders, the scores
were 34, 66 and 13 percent, respectively.

In 2002 in reading, 38 percent of black eighth-graders scored below basic,
with 62 percent at or above basic and 15 percent scoring proficient. For fourth-graders,
the scores were 53, 47 and 15 percent, respectively.

Below basic is the category the NAEP uses for students unable to display even
partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at their
grade level. Given this extreme academic incompetence, one shouldn’t be surprised
by the 2002 Virginia State Education Profile showing that the median combined
SAT score for black students is a disgraceful 848 out of 1600, 210 points below
the white median, and the white median is nothing to write home about.

The next time the Virginia General Assembly gets into an apologetic mood and
wants to pass another resolution aimed at its black citizens, here are my suggestions:
The Commonwealth of Virginia apologizes to its black citizens for not protecting
them from criminals who prey upon them and make their lives a daily nightmare.
The Commonwealth also apologizes for our government-sanctioned school system
that delivers fraudulent education, thereby consigning many of its black citizens
to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

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