Social Question

jca2's avatar

Do you think people, possibly including Kamala Harris, should apologize for their ancestors owning slaves?

Asked by jca2 (9524points) 1 month ago

There has been a movement recently where people have apologized for their ancestors owning slaves, in addition to other things which are now considered atrocities.

In the summer, there were videos of people taking a knee in public and apologizing for this.

Do you think people should apologize for their ancestors being slave owners?

I ask because I saw a discussion on social media where people were discussing Kamala Harris and whether or not her ancestors in Jamaica were slave owners. I am not against Kamala Harris, but if it’s true, then it might come up as a topic for her to discuss.

Just to add, I checked on Snopes to verify if it’s true that Kamala Harris’ ancestors were slave owners and it came up as unverified.

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34 Answers

Demosthenes's avatar


Virtue signalling, melodramatic displays of contrition and bootlicking are some people’s conception of “fighting racism”, but to me it’s nothing more than a way to make it seem like you’re doing something when you haven’t done anything substantial. But I guess if Kamala gets on her knees and wears some kente cloth it’ll erase both her ancestry and her missteps as AG of California.

Blackberry's avatar

There’s plenty enough for people to apologize for now. Let’s start with the war on drugs and basically many businesses stealing people’s wages and denying benefits by scheduling them just under 40 hours.

I mean geezus just pick any example of poor people getting stomped on left and right.

We’re all fighting over stupid surface level stuff while people are legitimately killing themselves because theres honestly no point in even attempting to have a decent life.

Blackberry's avatar

But to answer the question, no. Apologies won’t do anything. The damage is already done.
Would an apology from a rapist or burglar or murderer make anyone here feel better? Probably not.

Jeruba's avatar

No. Egad. Every historic offender major or petty who wasn’t celibate could have present-day descendants. One of my ancestors might have burnt a witch. Another might have stolen a pig. I don’t owe anybody an apology for them. It’s enough to be responsible for whatever harm I may have done and try to make amends. I can’t take on the sins of my fathers and my fathers’ fathers to the seven-times-seventh generation.

Indeed I regret than anyone was ever enslaved. I didn’t think it was right when the Egyptians did it to the Hebrews. But let’s get past symbolic self-abasement and try to understand the wrongs that are being done right here and right now, while we have a real present-moment opportunity to do something about them.

Yellowdog's avatar

I think this whole thing has gone too far.

All we have is here and now, and our goal should be to make the world a better place. Not to apologize for what someone else has done, or punish someone we find distasteful or not to our liking.

There is a lot to do to make the world more like Scandinavia and less polarized.

Jeruba's avatar

Hold it. Scandinavia is our model and ideal now? We want to make the world more like Scandinavia? Why?

Yellowdog's avatar

Well, maybe they’re too homogenous

I think the reason the Nordic model works is, although they are capitalists, and although they have very high taxes, (which, thus far, is dissatisfactory to both the left and the right)—they have a safety net and lots of public services. Most of us wouldn’t mind high taxes if we got a truly better world for it, and were allowed to keep our heritage.

But no—lets not apologize for what our ancestors did.

Back when Black Lives Matter got started I think prior to 2015, one legitimate thing I heard from African Americans was, they felt like we white people treated them differently in public. What I started doing in response was not apologize for my ancestors, but started making an extra effort to acknowledge them and be friendly / hospitable, as if I were welcoming them, Even the unfriendly African Americans who don’t like frivility you can still treat with extra respect.

Some people will respond to nothing, it is true. But at least you can make the effort to acknowledge, respect, meet their needs and that will make the world a better place.

ragingloli's avatar

Yes, let us force people whose great-great-great-great-grandmother was raped by a slaver, to apologise for her ancestor being raped.

mazingerz88's avatar

Yes. Not only apologize but be slaves for descendants of slaves for at least a year so they could experience what their cruel asshole animal relatives laid upon helpless human beings.

Yellowdog's avatar

And while we’re at it, we can apologize to our children today for all we did to them in factories and sweatshops here before child labor laws and all over the world even today. And for the child prostitution forced upon them in Northeastern cities and Western Europe.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I completely support voluntary reparations, but I’m not sure apologies help anyone alive today.

Aster's avatar

Of course not. An “apology” seems so fake and quite limited. It would be like offering the black community money for reparations for slavery. The amount they’d receive would absolutely never be enough or accepted. If it bankrupted the government it might be sufficient but I doubt it.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Where do you get the idea that her ancestors had slaves? Her father is Jamaican. There is a good chance that his ancestors were slaves.

No. For all the reasons mentioned above.

kritiper's avatar

No! Enough is enough, already…
Give it a rest.
(Talk about overkill…)

Blackberry's avatar

A long and complicated, yet interesting read. I had no idea the US received less slaves than the Caribbean and latin america. But it still confirms that it was a common practice to rape black women.

“An Americas-wide African female sex-bias can be attributed to known accounts of rape of enslaved African women by slave owners and other sexual exploitation.19,26,62,66 Regional differences may be due to higher mortality in enslaved males in Latin America as well as a common practice called branqueamento, or racial whitening, which involved women marrying lighter-skinned men with the intention of producing lighter-skinned children.1,25,27,62,67

,25,27,62,67 National branqueamento policies were implemented in multiple Latin American countries, funding and subsidizing European immigrant travels with the intention to dilute African Ancestry through reproduction with light-skinned Europeans.68 Conversely, the smaller African female sex-bias seen in former British colonies could be due to the practice of coercing enslaved people to have children as a means of maintaining enslaved workforces nearing the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.69 In some areas, such as the United States, enslaved women were incentivized to reproduce with the promise of freedom following the birth of many children.20 Furthermore, racist ideologies in the United States led to the segregation of people of African descent as opposed to promotion of European admixture.70 Overall, the inhumane practices associated with institutionalized slavery, though differing across the Americas, all resulted in an African-female sex bias despite the preponderance of males among those enslaved”

It seems they had tourism associated with white males coming to plantations to have sex and rape black women because they just had to get rid of dark skin. Except in America where segregation was more popular.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Blackberry Ugh, terrible! And they did it with intent. Although we know a lot of that happened here in the US as well, based on dna, it just wasn’t spoken of.

Soubresaut's avatar

On its face, it seems to me that this sort of public apology is an improvement when compared to the long US tradition of not wanting to talk about these things, or of wanting to talk about them in ways that soften their image and sidestep the repercussions still with us today. (Note: I’m not saying that’s the only “tradition”—for lack of a better word—for how people in the US seek to address racial issues, just that it’s a steady and persistent one).

I don’t think it should be a “should,” though, and certainly shouldn’t be seen in and of itself as an action against racial injustices. If it has a place, I would think it’s more of a way to make it more okay for honest public dialogue about racism (rather than defensiveness and denial and feelings of being personally attacked by the subject).

JLeslie's avatar

Having a representative of the country acknowledge slavery as a past sin is one thing. Like if a president does it in some sort of official statement. I think a pope years ago, maybe it was John Paul II, please correct if I’m wrong, gave an acknowledgement and apology to the Jewish people regarding the Holocaust. But, once someone so high up acknowledges it, that’s it. We don’t need another 50 people to do it. Whether some sort of reparations or other changes are made to right the wrong is a separate, but obviously related issue.

For an average citizen to think they need to apologize for their ancestors owning slaves or for someone to treat someone badly or judge them because their ancestors owned slaves is simply unAmerican.

We are a merit society, not royals, not caste. What that means is it doesn’t matter who your parents are, you are judged on your integrity and your own hard work.

We can certainly show empathy and understanding of the effects of slavery and try to correct the harm. We also can simply do the right thing in the present.

janbb's avatar

If you want to see a serious depiction of a journalist grappling with her family’s slave owning heritage, you might want to view “The Long Shadow”. (Unfortunately the link does not work so just try Googling “the Long Shadow film”) Frances Causey’s discussion of her personal history and racism in America. The film is enlightening, impressive and ultimately uplifting as it charts a course for more anti-racism action in America.

jca2's avatar

@Dutchess_lll I read it in a group on social media.

I don’t support this idea of kneeling to apologize for anything so I’m not arguing about it.

I said here on Fluther, a few months ago, that I will never kneel and apologize for racism or anything else, not in public and not in private.

janbb's avatar

@jca2 I don’t believe they’re kneeling to apologize; they’re kneeling to show support for the movement.

jca2's avatar

@janbb: Earlier in the summer, there were videos of white women kneeling and apologizing for racism. Someone here on Fluther posted one in her response to a question. I’ll see if I can find one for you. I am aware of why others, including athletes, kneel.

janbb's avatar

@jca2 You’re right; noneed to post. I believe you. I do think we all have to acknowledge that we as white people have profited from African-Americans being kept down but that is a different question and one I don’t need to argue about.

jca2's avatar

@janbb: I think we should acknowledge that we have profited from African Americans being kept down but I will not kneel and apologize for it.

JLeslie's avatar

I saw a photo of congressman kneeling and bowing their head. Was that real? That is not helpful in my opinion, and in fact it helps Trump. Kneeling during the anthem was a show of unity. Kneeling at any random place does start to look like weakness to me, especially with heads down.

I saw some police kneeling to show they are there to march with protestors. A momentary gesture in peace. Ok, that’s fine when things were really raging in the country, but there is a time and a place and you have to gauge the situation. Bowing your head while kneeling seems subservient to me.

seawulf575's avatar

It’s about as silly as saying we should pay reparations.

Blackberry's avatar

@jca2 That’s called an “outlier” and you’re supposed to be smart enough to not take them seriously.

This is why protesting only does so much. It’s easy for people to say “But they did this, I’m not listening to them anymore.”

I really wish people would protest by doing everything possible to vote in state and local elections. Oh wait….

We need to make it easier for people to vote.

I’ve personally been told I couldn’t leave work to go vote. I was young at the time so I didnt know any better and didn’t really care.

A lot of young people are apathetic though so I will give you that.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It’s a silly exercise for the simple reason that only a glance is required to appreciate that the overwhelming majority of black people in this country can be traced to be the proven progeny of slave holders.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Not just this country @stanleybmanly. Jamaica too.

SergeantQueen's avatar

As far as I know, none of my ancestors owned slaves. I think I have a few Nazis in the family though.

Not every white person owned slaves (which this thread is aware of),and not every white person is aware of there heritage like that.

I am not responsible for anything other people do. I was not born when America had slaves, and I was not born when Germany had the Nazis. So how could I possibly be responsible? I think when apologizing, you are taking some kind of blame or responsibility. I can’t do that because I literally had no say in what my family has done. I didn’t even get a choice in being born into this family.

I think my situation applies to most people, even those who had family that owned slaves.

We weren’t alive when it happened, we were born years after it happened. I do not see how anybody alive today could possibly be responsible for things their ancestors did.

So no. No apologizes. Unless you were directly responsible for slavery, or you had owned slaves yourself, you have nothing to apologize for.

seawulf575's avatar

I wonder if blacks should apologize for their ancestors selling others into slavery? Or even owning slaves?

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