By Lou K. Coleman-Yeboah
After all that has been done and said [ U.S. Apology for Slavery, Jim Crow, July 29, 2008], “Our nation still has need of tears! Tears for all those lynched, maimed, whipped, shamed, and debased by our history of race hatred. Our country has need of tears for those who suffered and for those at whose hands they suffered.” [Albert Raboteau -Author, Slave Religion].
Although the Senate acknowledged “the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery” and apologized to African Americans, on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery; and although the House of Representatives had passed a similar measure the previous year, Congress could not resolve the two apologies because of differing views on how the resolution would be used in any discussion of reparations. The Senate version was insistent that an apology would not endorse any future claims. The House could not agree. Significantly, the office of the president of the United States has never issued an apology. For a nation that can’t even agree on an apology, there is “The Need of Tears,” because the United States has never given an unconditional apology for slavery.” [Theodore R. Johnson III].
Mourn for the millions of Africans who died in the transatlantic slave trade. Mourn for those black bodies that were subject to unconscionable white enslavement, violence, and oppression. Mourn for those who lived through forms of carnage, mutilation, rape, castration, and injustice that will forever mark the profound ethical failure of this country. For we have not properly mourned nor repented past atrocities afflicted upon us as a people of color. Clearly, a trauma of this magnitude in the life of a people must be acknowledged and mourned before celebration can take place.
Mourn for the black people who were never meant to be included within the ideal norms of American democracy, yet forced themselves to dream as they faced nightmares, to continue breathing as they were suffocating from the stench of black bodies lynched and burned alive, and who forced themselves to stay alive when suicide would have been easier. [George Yancy]
And just as Jews refuse to forget Hitler’s Germany, we black Americans must refuse to forget the often-unspeakable atrocities we endured. Even after slavery was abolished, and the Emancipation Proclamation had been passed, prejudice amongst us was and is very prevalent.
So, “What to the Slave is [Black History Month]. [Black History Month] is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” [Paraphrasing Douglass 1952]. I’m not a fan about Black History Month. February 1st everybody running their black history ads telling you little factual tidbit about black history. Come March 1st, no more stories, no more conversation. I tell you, “The Need for Tears!”