I ran across the blog of Kezia Lama, one of the ministers at Wakefield Baptist Church in Wakefield, UK, just south of Leeds in the north of England. The church has been debating whether to offer an apology for slavery. Her blog post begins:
“The last session of the slavery debate has taken place. By the time I fell into bed last night I knew that people had shifted. It was self evident that many had come to Council reluctant and uncomfortable with the prospect of apology, but through the process of listening to black people and voices and also through a process of recognising our social connectedness and denominational story we are in a place to apologise with a sense of meaning and repentance.”
Since I first became involved with Katrina Browne and eight additional distant cousins in our Traces of the Trade journey, the one subject that is most difficult to broach is that of apology, or acknowledgment, for slavery by white people and institutions that benefited or continue to benefit from the legacy of slavery.
Here in the U.S. several states (Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Alabama, and Arkansas) have issued apologies, or, more specifically, expressions of “profound regret” for once trafficking in human flesh. A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress for the U.S. government to apologize for slavery.
With the bicentennial of the implementation of the law that abolished the slave trade in the U.S. coming in January 2008, there appears to be more focus on, and willingness to discuss, this nation’s, and particularly the North’s, role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Great Britain has invested a great deal this year in raising awareness about its own bicentennial, through national dialogue, education, museum exhibits, film, and so forth. Such awareness leads to the kind of dialogue taking place at Wakefield Baptist Church. At this point, it appears the United States will not invest a fraction of the resources the UK did in raising awareness among our citizens.