Response to Cohen's slavery resolution mixed - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Response to Cohen's slavery resolution mixed

"This is a symbolic resolution, but hopefully it will begin a dialogue where people will open their hearts and their minds to the problems that face this country."

That was Congressman Steve Cohen earlier this week, announcing a resolution that marks the first time a branch of federal government has apologized for slavery.   

The pros and cons of Congress's vote Tuesday to apologize for slavery differs depending on who you talk to.

"I want to commend Congressman Cohen for sponsoring the legislation and Congress for passing the legislation," said the Reverend Dwight Montgomery of the SCLC.

"Well, I think the apology situation surrounding candidate Steve Cohen is self serving political posturing on the part of Mr. Cohen," countered congressional candidate Dr. Isaac Richmond.

Richmond, a long time community activist, is one of three candidates running against Cohen.  He believes a resolution in which the government just says its sorry is not enough.

"That's an insult to the African American community of people who have put 246 years of slavery labor into this society," Richmond said. "And then, an apology is assumed to be something that will exonerate those who are guilty of that."

Richmond questioned the timing of Cohen's apology resolution, coming just days before an election.  But longtime community activist Dwight Montgomery said anytime is a good time to acknowledge the suffering caused on by slavery.

"Every person who is an elected official certainly makes decisions based on what their constituents want, so therefore they're all going for votes," he said.

Cohen's staff insisted that Tuesday was the best day to pursue the vote because Congress wraps up this week, and there's no guarantee of what might happen to the bill next session.

Montgomery said the resolution was a good first step, but now more work must be done to make up for the wrongs associated with slavery.

"The apology is good, but we must move from a verbal apology," he said. "Put legs on it. Let it walk. Let it be an apology of action."

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