Is There a Right to Forget? 539
to citizens of other countries such as Chile that have suffered civil wars or coups as a result of US intervention. Apologies, like memories, are selective.
Sub-national political entities within the US have also addressed historical injustices. The State of Florida established a commission whose ndings helped support a 1994 bill to provide reparations (but not an ofcial state apology) to survivors of the Rosewood massacre of 1923 and their descendants.54 A com- mission established by the State of Oklahoma recently completed a study of the Tulsa race riot of 1921 and issued recommendations including compensation for the living survivors, a scholarship fund for descendants, and a memorial. Numerous city councils (e.g. Chicago) have voted on, with some rejecting and some approving, resolutions calling for Congress to study the impact of slavery and the possibility of reparations.
In the debate about an apology and reparations for slavery in the US, two competing approaches to memory and historical injustice are evident. One approach, Option A, is to call it even, not dwell on the past, and move forward. Option A reects arguments that examining the past would re-open old wounds and exacerbate tensions, and that the present generation should not be forced to apologize or rectify something that they personally did not condone or partici- pate in. Also, some argue that since many white and black Americans are descended from European, African, and Caribbean immigrants who came to the US after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, they should not be held responsible. Some of these are legitimate objections, but some are put forward to deny and avoid grappling with the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow in the present.55
The right to forget risks placing cosmopolitans in the position promoting Option A. Given that social justice in the present is in part the struggle to dismantle inequities we inherited from the past, cosmopolitans ought to pro- mote Option B, which is to remember, recognize, apologize, and rectify injustices of the past before we move forward. Option B reects arguments that slavery and Jim Crow segregation produced legacies of institutionalized inequality that continue to shape the present. This option rejects the myth of time. Thus, we must examine the past, learn from it, and if justice requires, we must apologize and nd ways to provide compensation. This option is evident in various efforts to press the government to issue an apology and provide reparations. The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) has built a grassroots coalition of reparations advocates. In every Congressional session since 1989, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced H.R. 40 that would establish a commission to study slavery’s impact in the present and issue recommendations for reparations. The bill symbolically invokes the “40 acres and a mule” slogan derived from General Sherman’s Field Order No. 15, which would have granted 40 acres and the use of an army mule to newly emancipated black people living on the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia. And Representative Tony Hall (D-OH) introduced H.C.R. 96 in 1997 which called on Congress to issue an ofcial apology for slavery, and H.C.R. 356 in 2000 which,
54 For discussions of Rosewood, see Barkan, op. cit., pp. 296–299; and Kenneth Nunn, “Rosewood,” in When Sorry Is Not Enough, pp. 435–437.
55 For more detailed discussion of these and other reasons, see Barkan, op. cit., Chapter 12; and When Sorry Is Not Enough, Parts 6 and 7.