After the U.S. Senate passed a resolution apologizing for slavery and for racial segregation last Thursday, CSU community members and legislators were torn in their opinions of the apology – some saying it came too late and others a step in the right direction.
Reparations and a similar apology were delivered more than four decades ago to Japanese-Americans for their imprisonment in internment camps during World War II. Though a similar situation, no monetary compensation was offered to African-Americans, something community members agreed would be difficult to do.
“It was a lot easier to define the wrong that had been done to specific Japanese Americans 46 years previously,” said Lauren Fukuhara, a senior Japanese American and ethnic studies major. “It’s a lot harder to find everyone who may have been affected by slavery 100 years ago.”
When monetary compensation was offered to Japanese-Americans who were placed in internment camps, it was to those still living.
Sen. Bob Bacon (D-Fort Collins), who said the apology was “long overdue,” said, “It gets more complicated when you are offering (reparations) to third and fourth generation descendants of slaves.”
He added that the apology represents a higher principle.
“Electing a black president certainly has something to do with the resolution passing,” Bacon said. “But it also helps represent another step toward a more color blind society.”
One student leader agreed with Bacon but said there is more to be done.
“There are still a lot of things to be worked out,” said Marlon Blake, a senior sociology major and president of the Black Student Alliance. “It’s a good step toward recognizing the wrongs that were committed in the past though.”
The resolution specifically passed through the Senate Thursday, known as Juneteenth, a day of celebration and commemoration for the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery. The resolution, however, needs still to be passed through the House of Representatives before being enacted.
The arrival of African-Americans as slaves in America in 1619 marked the beginning of black suffrage. Once slavery was abolished in 1865 by the 13th Amendment, a new set of segregation tactics began. Jim Crow laws further segregated black people from white people, suggesting that the two “differing populations” could be “separate but equal.”
Racial segregation legally ended with the case of Brown v. the Board of Education in 1954, which declared that it was not possible or just that the two races be separate and equal, according to the Brown v. Board of Education Web site. With that, desegregation happened slowly and only after interference by activists participating in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
The steps taken by those involved in the movement have led to greater acceptance of Bacon’s “more color blind society.” This is illustrated recently as more people of mixed race are elected to positions like joint chief of staff, secretary of state, or even U.S. president.
Though it has been 55 years since “separate but equal” was declared an untrue and unfair law, Blake again reiterated the need for further change.
“The resolution is a good step in the right direction, but there is still more that can be done in contribution to African-American equality,” Blake said. “Too often African-Americans are much less educated that other parts of the population. And people frequently learn the wrong side of history.”
A formal celebration is planned for next month at the Capitol Rotunda if the House of Representatives approves the resolution.
Staff writer Ashley Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.