02 June 2005

"I'm Sorry" is one thing

I will never claim to be a legal or civil rights expert. However, I will say that this article piqued my interest. The long and the short of it is: Two of the companies that eventually got folded into the Wachovia bank owned slaves, back in the days when it was legal to do so. Wachovia, per Chicago, Richmond (VA), Philly, and LA law, issued a formal apology to "all Americans, and especially to African-Americans and people of African descent," for this fact.

So, I am not sure just what good is served by this. Did they track down the descendants of the 691 some slaves that their predecessors owned and apologize, or try to make some kind of reparations? No. Should they have even had to? The bank known as Wachovia has very little resemblence to the Georgia Railroad and the Bank of Charleston. Have they profited from the (legal) sins of their predecessors? Not likely. And yet they had to hire a company to research their history to be in compliance with these laws. Ok, there are some arguements that could be made that this is a small expense for a large company, it might actually generate good PR for them, so the money might not be a total loss for them.

Oh, but wait. The City of Berkeley, Calif., has decided to nullify city contracts with companies that do not "acknowledge past practices that aided slavery." Not just owned slaves, but "aided slavery." What exactly does that mean? How are companies going to determine if they did that?

As a final thought, how many cities force companies to apologize for their part in the Japanese Internment, or for posting NINA ads?


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