And it’s not just the government. In a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll, only 28 percent of Americans thought that slavery warranted an apology, while 54 percent thought the country should not apologize (18 percent had no opinion). In other words, it is not the will of the American people or of the government to apologize for slavery. This is a significant declaration and communicates to black Americans what the nation thinks of their story.
As a black man and military officer, I was especially proud to see President Obama and the first lady stand in the Door of No Return when they visited Gorée Island last year. The visual of our first black president standing in the spot which symbolizes the victimization and subjugation of generations of black people was incredibly powerful. But for me, what is just as significant is that on the very spot where my commander in chief stood, a man from another country said the words that the nation I love and defend will not say.
Here’s hoping the incentive to apologize will take the same course from Africa to U.S. shores as many blacks did centuries ago.
Theodore R. Johnson III is a writer, naval officer and former White House fellow. His writing focuses on race, society and politics. Follow him on Twitter.