What good does a resolution like this serve?
It's an official recognition (finally) of an historical national atrocity.
The resolution says 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."
I think this language, for the first time, expresses it in real terms, not trying to whitewash it or gloss over what the cost was to those who were living under that "systematic discrimination and enforced segregation" that followed the official abolition of slavery, as has previously and most frequently been the case, not only by our government, but by countless individuals I've heard speak about it myself- as in "that was in the past- they should just get over it- what do you want me to do about it- I wasn't a part of it..."etc., etc.
I certainly regret that slavery existed in America as I'm sure the vast majority of Americans do as well. I have no objection to government officials expressing this regret in a public resolution, but I just wonder if there is anything more to it than politics.
With politicians, you can never know, but whatever their motives, I think it was a good thing to do.
I suspect that some of the people who voted for this resolution, while not being politically clumsy enough to voice it, expect or hope that in some way it will lead to black citizens getting over slavery.
That's not a bad thing. All citizens need to get over the attitudes that led to slavery, and black citizens being able to feel that it's been recognized, addressed and taken responsibility for can only be helpful in any healing that might take place.
Is there reason to believe that a resolution like this will improve race relations or help blacks citizens feel better about their place in America, or do any remotely measurable good at all?
I think so. James Baldwin said, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
It makes me feel better about Virginia. I always felt driving through Virginia and seeing all the confederate flags still displayed, that they were still fighting the civil war. I never did get the feeling that slavery was regretted there. Now I think maybe I got the wrong impression.
Should it be seen as the crossing of some cultural or political threshold?
It remains to be seen, but as the "first" of anything opens doors for those who are willing to go through, I think it's a start.
Despite what this article suggests, expressing regret (profound or otherwise) for slavery in America is not the same as apologizing for slavery in America. Would an unequivocal apology by a state government or, for that matter, the national government be a more effective measure?
I guess at this point "expressing regret" is the closest anyone will come to acknowledging responsibility. I guess saying, "We're sorry" would imply personal responsibility- and at this late date, no one who was personally responsible for enacting or participating in the laws of slavery is still alive. But maybe this will lead to those who are still alive who participated in enacting the laws of segregation and Jim Crow coming forward and apologizing-taking personal responsibility for their beliefs and actions-one can always fantasize.
Somehow I doubt that 20 years from now more than a very few will remember this session of the Virginia General Assembly at all let alone for passing this resolution.
I hope that's not true because that would mean no change came of it. I do hope it leads to changes in individual attitudes- which would be the most productive and efficacious changes.
Slavery and racism have represented a terrible stain on this nation's history. Regret for their existence seems unquestionable, and if an official apology will help right their wrongs what possible objection could there be?
Were there stated objections? I saw the vote was unanimous, but were there stated objections in the press and publicity leading up to the vote?
Since the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, it is possible that such measures could result in some harm: i.e. if persons believed that they somehow put an end to the issue of race in this country, or if others believed that they signified entitlement to extraordinary recompense.
I think most citizens of any race believe that the issue of race in the US has been stalled for quite some time. What I see most commonly expressed is that those in the majority don't understand the continued fuss by those in the minority, while those in the minority have come to the understanding that the majority believes that they just need to be happy with what they get cause there won't be very much more empathy and understanding forthcoming.
And I think if you brought up the prospect of extraordinary recompense for the legacy and effect of slavery to most of the black people I know, they'd laugh long and hard and tell you not to believe in such pie in the sky dreams. The black people I know aren't holding their breath, of course I can't speak for any others.