Leader Resource 2: Histories
South Africa and Black South Africans
Apartheid was the law in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. Apartheid laws enforced segregation by race and kept the white majority in power, while denying black South Africans basic human rights and freedoms. After years of pressure from other countries, South Africa dismantled apartheid. An official apology from the government was never issued, though individual officials and citizens publicly apologized. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to grant amnesty to those who had committed political crimes on both sides under apartheid; to record the story of (predominantly black) victims whose voices had until then been silenced; and to make recommendations on reparations, both symbolic and monetary, for those identified as victims. It was met with uneven success.
Germany and Jews affected by the Holocaust
Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, a state-sponsored, systematic genocide executed by Nazi Germany. After the war ended in 1945, the Jewish people established their own state, Israel, in the Middle East. In 1952, after negotiations between Israel, the World Jewish Congress and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany until 1990) The government of West Germany signed an agreement to provide 715 million dollars in goods and services to the State of Israel as compensation for taking in survivors; 110 million dollars to the Claims Conference for programs to finance the relief, rehabilitation, and resettlement of Jewish Holocaust survivors; and direct reparations to selected individuals over a 12-year period. Additionally, the government of Germany coordinated an effort to reach a settlement with German companies that had used slave labor during the war and established a National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Berlin.
At that time, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer made a public speech that acknowledged the suffering of the Jewish people, stopping short of actually assuming responsibility or apologizing, saying "... unspeakable crimes have been committed in the name of the German people, calling for moral and material indemnity, both with regard to the individual harm done to the Jews and with regard to the Jewish property for which no legitimate individual claimants still exist."
In the ensuing years, various members of the German government have
offered apologies for Germany's role in the Holocaust, including President Johannes Rau, who said, in an address to the Israeli Knesset (parliament) in 2000, "I am asking for forgiveness for what Germans have done, for myself and my generation, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, whose future I would like to see alongside the children of Israel." Not everyone affected by the Holocaust—either directly or through their ancestors—accepts the apologies or approves of reparations.
Unitarian Universalists and the Ute tribe
In response to a report by UUA President Bill Sinkford, delegates at General Assembly in 2007 made a resolution to "encourage their congregations and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to research their own and the Association's history: to uncover our links and complicity with the genocide of native peoples; with slavery and the slave-based economy; and with all types of racial, ethnic, and cultural oppression, past and present, toward the goal of accountability through acknowledgment, apology, repair, and reconciliation." The resolution requests congregations and the UUA report back in subsequent General Assemblies.
In the process, a little known part of our history was uncovered by Reverend David Pettee and Ted Fetter. In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant invited Protestant denominations to take over the management of Indian reservations and agencies. "The American Unitarian Association (AUA) accepted charge of the district covering the Colorado reservation occupied by various tribes of the Ute. The hope was that not only would the religious managers be less corrupt than some government officials, but also that they would 'civilize' the Native American people."
Petee, Fetter and others discovered mismanagement and misunderstanding. The situation eventually erupted into violence and the forced removal of the Ute from their native land.
In response to these findings, President Sinkford issued an apology at General Assembly 2009, saying, "We participated, however ineptly, in a process that stole your land and forced a foreign way of life on you. We ask for your forgiveness, and we promise to stand with you as you chart your way forward."
United States and Japanese Americans
In 1942, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into World War II, the United States government ordered the relocation of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans to War Relocation Camps. Sixty-two percent of the interred were American citizens. The internment led to property and job loss, deaths due to poor medical facilities in the camps, and immeasurable psychological damage.
In 1988, Congress issued the Civil Liberties Act, which said, "The Congress recognizes that, as described in the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, a grave injustice was done to both citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II.
As the Commission documents, these actions were carried out without adequate security reasons and without any acts of espionage or sabotage documented by the Commission, and were motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.
The excluded individuals of Japanese ancestry suffered enormous damages, both material and intangible, and there were incalculable losses in education and job training, all of which resulted in significant human suffering for which appropriate compensation has not been made.
For these fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights of these individuals of Japanese ancestry, the Congress apologizes on behalf of the Nation." Congress also authorized monetary redress in the amount of about 20,000 dollars per surviving internee. After determining terms of payment and definition of eligibility in 1988, over 82,000 Japanese Americans received payments.
United States and African Americans
The first Africans arrived in the United States. as indentured servants in 1619. The institution of enslaving Africans by states started in 1640. By 1800, over 700,000 Africans had been brought to the country as slaves. Though some states had laws that allowed enslaved Africans to earn their freedom, these laws were the exception and not the rule. Hence slavery was passed down through generations until it was repealed in 1865 by the 13th Amendment. After its repeal, discrimination and violence against African Americans took new turns with Jim Crow laws and legal segregation in the public and private arenas.
From 2006-2007, six states (Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and North Carolina) apologized for slavery, prompting the United States House of Representatives (in 2008) and the Senate (in 2009) to apologize. The Senate resolution acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws; apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws; expresses Congress's recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and calls on all people of the United States to work toward eliminating racial prejudices, injustices, and discrimination from society. To prevent the possibility of African Americans' suing the United States government for reparations, the resolution includes the disclaimer: "Nothing in this resolution authorizes or supports any claim against the United States or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States."