If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the fields. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Those powerful words are from Frederick Douglass. And no truer words have ever been spoken when we look at the history that has been made these past few weeks in the U.S. Senate. The U.S. Senate is the most powerful governing body in the entire world. It is made up of 100 people and they don’t bend over for anyone. So upon first hearing that those powerful U.S. senators apologized for not enacting anti-lynching laws, it almost sounded like Frederick Douglass’ quote was being put into action. Power was conceding because of a demand.
From 1882 to 1968, there was an estimated 4,743 lynchings according to the Tuskegee Institute records. So 37 years later, black people were using their power, and the Senate was finally apologizing for not having passed any legislation to do anything about it. Even though they had been presented with over 200 bills in the past to take a stand against lynching, the U.S. Senate was finally seeing the error of their way and was going to apologize for it.
But then you look closer. Of the 100 senators in office, 20 didn’t sign on to the apology. They also brought up the apology at a time so they didn’t have to have a roll-call vote to document for the Senate record which senators were opposing the apology. What they had was a voice vote. You know, all those in favor say “aye.” Opposed? Well 20 Senators opposed the vote, but they didn’t even have to mouth the “nay.” They just didn’t say a word. So when it comes to black people and our Holocaust, this country isn’t really ready to bend over and give us a genuine apology.
What would a genuine apology sound like? Well, let’s take the case of our own Senator Dick Durbin speaking on the
Senate floor about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. He compared
what those prisoners were going through
to those who suffered under the Nazis,
Soviet Gulags and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
His words, as soon as they were spoken, provoked outrage. People were demanding that he apologize. He had offended the soldiers. He had offended the Holocaust. He had offended the White House and Republicans. Our Senator Dick Durbin had offended “Power.” At first, our powerful Senator Durbin refused to apologize. He said he would stand his ground. He said he stood by his comments. Senator Dick Durbin thought he was “power.”
But then on Tuesday, he apologized because he had offended the genuine “power.” Senator Dick Durbin didn’t give a terse apology. He didn’t give one that sounded like only 80 percent of it was true. He didn’t give a brief, “I’m sorry” and nothing more. Instead, he gave an apology with sniffling and almost sobbing. He begged for forgiveness for the ‘errors of his words.’ He truly sounded like he was sorry. In fact, his apology was the poster child for how one should truly sound when an apology is given. Was his apology given after hours? No. Was his apology given so that it could be part of the Senate Record? Yes.
What did Frederick Douglass say? “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
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