Column/Slavery: Let it go, Hank!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 6, 2007

I am prefacing this column with this sincere statement: I believe that slavery is the most evil institution in the history of mankind.

However, I must ask this question: How many of the approximate 40 million African-Americans citizens, living in the United States today, believe that they would be better off – if their slave-ancestors had not been exported by the African slave-traders to America?

Most people would agree, I think, that war is a terrible thing, too! Again, I would beg this question: Would any of us be living in this great country today had there not been a conflict – the Revolutionary War – with our British oppressors. What about the most brutal confrontation of them all, the Civil War, which precipitated Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation? Also, don’t forget World War II.

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As many of you must know, Selma’s State Senator, Hank Sanders, has this “thing” about slavery. Based on his writings (STJ columns), I think that it would be accurate to say that Sen. Sanders is fixated on the slavery issue, and his April 20 column in The Times-Journal – “The legacy of slavery & the Alabama Senate” is just another example.

Also, I feel sure that some of you are aware that Mr. Sanders is currently spearheading a crusade, as it were, to extract an apology in the form of a resolution, from the Alabama Senate – as it pertains to slavery activity during the pre-Civil War years.

Hank Sanders has been characterized by some state political observers as the most influential legislator in Alabama politics, so the chance of his “apology resolution” being passed in the Senate appears to be pretty good.

I see this as a blatant exercise in racial politics!

Sanders’ fellow State Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, had the perfect response, I think, referring to a possible resolution expressing regret for Alabama’s role in slavery. Sen. Waggoner was quoted in the Birmingham News, “I don’t feel like I ought to apologize for myself or on behalf of the state. That’s ancient history, and I think that we need to forget it and move on.”

I don’t believe that any members of Hank Sanders’ immediate family were slaves nor does Sanders know any living former slave holders.

As far as I am concerned, Hank’s time and energy – in his very important position – should be narrowly focused on issues that he and the other liberal politicians in the Alabama legislature can do something about.

For starters, an area that needs immediate attention is the enormous number of highway deaths that occurred in Alabama in 2006?

Are you aware, Sen. Sanders, that more than 1,200 people lost their lives in Alabama highway accidents last year?

This outrageous total was the highest number of fatalities since 1973 – 34 years ago.

What has happened? Has there been a significant reduction in the number of State Troopers patrolling the highways – or has the highway law enforcement department failed to increase the number of troopers – commensurate with the increase in the number of drivers/vehicles on our highways?

Another critical issue that needs your attention is the performance of Alabama’s public schools. The last time I checked we were in the bottom five states in the country in terms of graduation rates and math and writing proficiency.

As you know, right here in your home town, about 25 percent of Selma High’s seniors are not on track to graduate.

Now, back to the slavery issue, Hank, and your call for a Senate apology. What’s to be gained from this other than stirring up more racial divisiveness?

We have enough racial tensions already! Is there possible political gain in it for you?

If you get the apology, what’s next – reparations? As you know, nobody living today had a damn thing to do with slavery – so what’s the real point?

Since none of us can really do anything about what happened centuries ago, I believe – as Sen. Waggoner suggested – “it’s time to move on.” Again, would you rather be living in Africa or America?

As for me, I thank God for America and for George Washington securing our precious independence and the Founding Fathers for the many freedoms we enjoy today. Also, I thank God for the millions of military heroes who have maintained our great democractic Republic. Without them, we would probably all be speaking German or Japanese.

May God continue to bless our great nation, and remember 9/11.

Byrd Looper is a regular columnist for The Times-Journal.