Carol M. Swain's July 16 op-ed column reminded me that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Although purportedly writing in support of a formal apology for generations of enslavement and Jim Crow, she seems to be more focused on ensuring that no legal liability or call for reparations would be triggered by such an apology. She does not support an apology that admits wrongdoing, accepts responsibility and ensures that those who were affected are made whole.

What she seems to advocate are meaningless words that will benefit and support the aims of the country at the expense of those to whom this "apology" is reportedly to be made. And she seems to count on the goodwill of African Americans to accept whatever is offered so that the country can "symbolically bury" the past but still "celebrate" a history that until only 40 years ago had one form or another of legal apartheid.

-- Angela R. Carter

Baltimore

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Carol Swain's rationale for why there should be a formal apology for slavery and its legacy is preposterous. This apology, according to Swain, would be sanctioned by the Republican-controlled Congress, would "do immeasurable good in terms of improving race relations," and "would bring closure and healing to a festering wound." Poppycock! A formal apology would be the equivalent of treating a gunshot wound with a cotton ball. Uttering words will not improve race relations and reflects a failure to appreciate the pernicious, enduring effects of slavery. And Swain's assertion that because "most blacks are Christians, they would graciously accept the apology" is reminiscent of the vile logic applied by slaveholders who used Christian teachings as a means to ensure the pacification of their slaves.

To make matters worse, Swain suggests that the primary beneficiary of an apology would most likely be the Republican Party and that the best reason to apologize is that it costs nothing to do so. That one could be so dismissive toward the object of the apology -- the descendants of those who had the misfortune of being chattel -- while advancing arguments for the apology is appalling.

-- Damon D. Colbert

Alexandria