Slavery: "Get over it"

Once again, a politician has "slipped" to reveal dubious views about race, lurking not far beneath the surface. From Richmond, Virginia:

A state legislator said black people "should get over" slavery and questioned whether Jews should apologize "for killing Christ," drawing denunciations Tuesday from stunned colleagues.

Delegate Frank D. Hargrove, who is white and Christian, made his remarks in opposition to a measure that would apologize on the state's behalf to the descendants of slaves.

In an interview published Tuesday in The Daily Progress of Charlottesville, Hargrove, 79, said slavery ended nearly 140 years ago with the Civil War and added that "our black citizens should get over it."

The newspaper also quoted him as saying, "are we going to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ?"

The paper further reports that fellow lawmakers "gasped and groaned" when Hargrove told an outraged Jewish colleague "I think your skin is a little too thin."

The question now is whether Hargrove will be "rehabilitated," and how fast. Fellow Virginian Sen. George Allen suffered defeat last November in part for his "macaca" moment, but fellow senator Trent Lott of Mississippi appears to be on the rise after being caught waxing nostalgic for Jim Crow a few years back.

An even bigger question: why do the media and political leaders "gasp and groan" over such slips, but barely bat an eyelash when, for example, 13 U.S. Senators tell African Americans to "get over" lynching, as shown by their refusal in 2005 to support a resolution condemning the practice?

And what about Katrina? As Randall Robinson, the Harvard scholar and author of "The Debt" reminds us, the tragedy of the Gulf Coast is a reminder that slavery's legacy is still with us:

Nearly a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation, the descendents of slaves, whose cruelly coerced exertions made America a wealthy and powerful nation, are told that "slavery and Jim Crow were long ago and we must now move on".

What was it that William Faulkner reminded us about the past never being dead and buried, and that indeed it is not even past? Yet, White America recoils at the mere suggestion that the time has come for an honest appraisal of the ongoing impact of America's past on the painful racial realities that confront us today.

Having been here since 1619, African-Americans can only arguably be said to have been "granted" full citizenship in America with the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

How many Americans understand the differential economic and psychological implications of this for all Americans - black and white?

There are millions and millions of blacks who lead, today in America, lives marked by the grinding, dehumanizing poverty that Katrina exposed in New Orleans. They are the living, awful harvest of American slavery and the Jim Crow century that followed it. They are the bruised fruit of centuries of government-enforced exclusion based on race that lasted until 1965. They mirror America's death of conscience. And this is America's disgrace.