Well, Virginia Governor Robert “Bob” McDonnell abjectly apologized today for declaring April to be Confederate History Month and neglecting to mention slavery. He issued a five-paragraph statement admitting “a major omission” in a proclamation that was somehow “issued by this Office.” Ah, the passive voice: God’s gift to politicians caught with their pants down.
“The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission. The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed. The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War. Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation…
The rest is mostly talking about the good stuff he’s done and how he meant well. He also issued an additional paragraph for the original proclamation, filling in those pesky missing details. It goes like this:
WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history…
The Washington Post’s Lee Hockstader fills in some useful context on the apology:
It took more than 24 hours, but McDonnell finally got that. That’s good. What disturbing, though, is how stubborn he was to get it, initially downplaying slavery’s significance as just one of “any number of aspects to that conflict between the states.” (What history books has this guy been reading?) What really seems to have opened the governor’s eyes was one person: Sheila Johnson. Johnson, the African-American co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, was a key backer – the key backer – of McDonnell’s campaign. Her support was so important to McDonnell that barely a day passed when he didn’t mention it, and she was featured front-and-center in his campaign advertising. Single-handedly, she conferred respectability on him not only as conciliatory on race, but as pro-business.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).