Don't Speak for Me

Slavery is a lingering scar on North America. Lives were destroyed. People were mistreated. Some died at the hands of cruel masters. But should state governments, standing as the representatives of their citizens, be the ones to apologize for slavery?

Donald Shriver Jr. thinks so (“It’s a Start,” June 2008). In fact, he sees such admission of culpability as only the precursor in the fight against racial discrimination in our country. And he has a point.

But I’m not guilty for slavery. One set of my grandparents emigrated from Germany to the United States. My other grandmother’s roots go back to Canada and Ireland, and who knows where before that? It hardly matters. My point is this: As far as I know, none of my ancestors took part in slavery. I’m not sure that any of them even lived in this country at the time of slavery. So why should I apologize for slavery?

As individuals, and perhaps as the church in our nation, there are sins we should repent for: rampant consumerism, idolatry in the form of greed and racism, and the failure to live as salt and light in the world around us. As a country, we might even consider repenting from hostility toward other nations (Iraq, to name just one). But I don’t want my state representatives speaking on my behalf and confessing something I never took part in. Address the social issues, but please leave me out of the apology.

Lisa Clark

Port Matilda, Pennsylvania

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2008
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