Apologies and a chance to change
William J. Barber II’s excellent Feb. 8 op-ed, “Repenting America’s original sin,” made me remember my early life. I was born in 1940 in Hannibal, Mo. In the 1940s and early 1950s, minstrel shows, including blackface, were common. They were considered funny, but they were, in retrospect, hideous. I watched and laughed. (Now I realize I shouldn’t have.) My wife, born in Cleveland in 1963, knew neither what blackface was nor its history.
Times change, and people change. Forgiveness and redemption are possible. Although blackface has a despicable history that tarnishes the lives of those who engaged in it or considered it funny, I am reminded of the comment by Robert Butler Jr. that people should not be defined by their (in his case, criminal) history but by “who they see right now” [“Pathways provides avenue from crime to employment,” Metro, Feb. 2].
Virginia’s government officials should be judged by who they are now and, as Mr. Barber suggested, by what they do now to promote social justice. Apologies, contrition and behavioral change are appropriate. Vengeance is not. James M. Kauffman, Afton, Va.
William J. Barber II and James B. Comey [“Hate, not heritage”] had thoughtful remarks on the Feb. 8 op-ed page, helping to put into perspective the recent hysteria The Post and other news media have created regarding blackface. Mr. Barber said “mockery, fear and hatred of black people are the result of a racial caste system, not its causes.” This caste system has been in place since the Virginia colony first appeared on the continent. In this regard, we have seen the use of blackface since the 1800s, as Mr. Comey pointed out. We have seen statues erected in the 1890s by the same system. This is not hate vs. heritage, but a heritage of hate.
Mr. Barber showed us that people are starting to look at things through a different lens and act accordingly, as has Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D).
In that vein, how is the use of the name “Redskins” any less offensive as the emblem of the football team of the nation’s capital? Robert L. Fox, Washington