Yesterday, the Senate apologized for failing to make lynching a federal crime.
The formal apology, adopted by voice vote, was issued decades after senators blocked antilynching bills by filibuster. The resolution is the first time that members of Congress, who have apologized to Japanese-Americans for their internment in World War II and to Hawaiians for the overthrow of their kingdom, have apologized to African-Americans for any reason, proponents of the measure said.
"The Senate failed you and your ancestors and our nation," Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, chief Democratic sponsor of the resolution, said at a luncheon attended by 200 family members and descendants of victims. They included 100 relatives of Anthony Crawford, as well as a 91-year-old man believed to be the only known survivor of an attempted lynching.
I suppose one could argue that a late apology is better than none at all but when you add context, this grandiose moment is revealed to be more of an empty gesture. Politics as usual.
For example, how can anyone forget how no Senator came forward to support the Congressional Black Caucus as they sought a Senate sponsor in order to conduct hearings into voting irregularities in the 2000 Florida election?
Even the manner in which the Senate addressed the apology leaves their motives suspect:
Of the 100 senators, 80 were co-sponsors of the resolution, and because it passed by voice vote, senators escaped putting themselves on record.
"It's a statement in itself that there aren't 100 co-sponsors," Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said. "It's a statement in itself that there's not an up-or-down vote."
Maybe 100 years from now, the Senate will once again apologize to African Americans for failing to look into efforts to disenfranchise their voting rights in the last few elections. I wouldn't hold my breath, though. And I'm not the only one who thinks so:
Mrs. Merriwether's aunt Magdalene Latimer, 84, was not so certain about the senators. "I have to let God be the judge," Ms. Latimer said, "because I don't know if they meant it out of their heart or they're just saying it out of their mouth."