The New Jersey legislature yesterday officially apologized, on behalf of the state, for slavery practiced within its borders in the 19th century and earlier. The New Jersey Star Ledger's January 3, 2008 editorial calls it merely an “official wrong [that] merits an official apology.” It states:
“Assemblymen William Payne and Craig Stanley are sponsoring a simple, worthwhile resolution that says the state Legislature apologizes, regrets this state's involvement in slavery and encourages citizens to remember and teach their children the truth.
“[O]fficial state policy, unfortunately, made New Jersey one of the few Northern states to sanction the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and its provisions for hunting down runaways and returning them to their owners.”
But this is not the whole story. It is being billed as a step toward rectifying the lingering injustice of racism. As quoted by Associated Press Writer Tom Hester Jr., the resolution also states the following:
"The proposed resolution expresses ‘profound regret for the state's role in slavery and apologizes for the wrongs inflicted by slavery and its aftereffects in the United States of America.’“It states that in New Jersey, ‘the vestiges of slavery are ever before African-American citizens, from the overt racism of hate groups to the subtle racism encountered when requesting health care, transacting business, buying a home, seeking quality public education and college admission, and enduring pretextual traffic stops and other indignities.’ " (emphasis added)
Racism, it is said, is a remnant of the enslavement of blacks in the early years of America. It is said that by apologizing for whatever part early New Jersey residents played in regards to slavery, a step will have been taken toward ending this vestige of slavery. But this apology bill will do no such thing. In fact, it will only reinforce whatever racism exists in the minds of people.
This is because racism is not rooted in slavery. Slavery and racism, in fact, are two separate and distinct evils, although they share the same philosophical base… collectivism. While American slavery may have had racist overtones, it must be remembered that America, at its founding, inherited slavery, which had been practiced for thousands of years. One of the greatest contemporary historians, Thomas Sowell, said of slavery:
“[F]or most of the thousands of years of its existence, slavery had nothing to do with race...Slavery existed all over this planet, among people of every color, religion and nationality….[A]nyone familiar with the history of slavery around the world knows that its origins go back thousands of years and that slaves and slaveowners were very often of the same race…Whites enslaved other whites in Europe for centuries before the first black slave was brought to the Western Hemisphere; moreover, Asians enslaved other Asians, Africans enslaved other Africans, and the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere enslaved other native peoples of the Western Hemisphere…[and] Thousands of free blacks owned slaves in the antebellum South.” (These quotes were taken from two articles written by Mr. Sowell and published in the New York Post some years ago, although regrettably I don’t have the dates.)
Racism, on the other hand, is a mindset separate and distinct from the institution of slavery. Some members of all ethnic groups are guilty of its practice. The racist views other people not as individuals but as subordinate members of a group, racial or otherwise. Twentieth century philosopher Ayn Rand, the greatest defender of individualism, defines racism as follows:
“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage—the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors…. [R]acism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty.” (From her essay “Racism” in the book Return of the Primitive)
What racism and slavery have in common is that they are both rooted in collectivism. Collectivism is the philosophical doctrine, which holds that the individual has no value and that the standard of value in human affairs is the group to which he “belongs”. The common traits that tie him to the collective (the tribe) may be nationality, religious belief, race, skin color, social or economic status, etc. When members of one group or collective take slaves from another, it is collectivism at work. The tribal warfare that goes on generation after generation in various parts of the world is collectivism in action…with the warring groups holding each other responsible for wrongs perpetrated centuries ago regardless of the fact that the individuals comprising these groups had nothing to do with the ancient events. The individual is held responsible simply by sharing certain characteristics of the group.
While it is being billed as an official act of the state, the implication of this resolution is that the current residents are held to be guilty of the wrongs of their predecessors some 200 years ago, simply because of the color of their skin and their current residency. This implication is unavoidable since the NJ State officials who sanctioned the slave institution were elected by and acted in the name of the people of New Jersey. Those who practice racism today are guilty of irrationality, not past slavery.
The logic behind the official apology being contemplated by the NJ legislature is derived from the same collectivist doctrine as racism and the institution of slavery. By adopting this bill, which is likely a precursor (despite official denials) to the adoption of the even more evil “slave reparations”, New Jersey has officially endorsed the same essential philosophical premises of slavery and racism. (Slave reparations would compel innocent people to make financial “restitution” to modern day profiteers on the injustice of past slavery, which would itself be a new type of slavery.)
One cannot fight evil without attacking it at its root. The best thing any New Jersey resident, or any American, can do in protest against the evil of slavery is to do as I have done. Make the essential fundamental choice. Reject collectivism and adopt its only antithesis, individualism, as a moral and philosophical absolute. This means to pledge to treat every person you encounter as a sovereign individual and to judge him solely according to his own ideas, actions, and overall character, while never ascribing to anyone any sort of group or tribal identity. It further means to pledge to never accept any unearned guilt because of the actions of others.
As to New Jersey's “official" apology for slavery; I hereby disavow any connection to this resolution. I will not accept any guilt or responsibility for the evil deeds perpetrated by those who came before me.
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