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Regarding apologizing for slavery

Image by Dodai Stewart, 2019

Hi Robel,

When I first met you [in a group setting], I disclosed that I was feeling grief and sadness, and would like to say “I am sorry”, then I apologized if it sounded offensive. I never heard back from anyone in the group if I offended anyone. I know this is about me and my grief, and I need to know if it is offensive to say “I am sorry”? I also know that people of color need more than an apology too.

I was not apologizing for my emotions. It was a much larger apology, of saying I am sorry for slavery and how this country has treated people of color.

Is this a place to start? My apologies in advance if this is an offensive question.


Hi Anon,

Regarding apologizing for slavery and how this country has treated Black people, Indigenous people, and all People of Color:

The apology, in this instance, does not really hold because I am not sure on whose behalf you are apologizing. Are you America? Are you white people? Are you apologizing for your privileges that you experience today? For your ancestors? For the generational wealth?

When you say treated People of Color, do you mean the Trail of Tears? Eric Garner? Do you mean selective policing in Black neighborhoods? The crack epidemic? School-to-prison pipeline? The generations of families which are marred due to Black men incarcerated, threatened, and marginalized?

What about the way the media portrays Black people? The European standards of beauty which permeate our collective consciousness and malign folks darker-skinned folks, thicker folks, among others?

The issue with the apology is:

I’ve only listed a few issues above. I’m not sure you are aware of all of them, or the hundreds of others which exist. I’m also not sure what the intention is behind the apology — if the intention is to assuage guilt, offload shame, or to discuss how you feel about this collective trauma.

The burden is all of ours to carry. Your apology would be more useful if you see and spot moments in your own life where you have been blind. Apologize to those people, disarm yourself, then disrupt, then dismantle.

All love,

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