Apolo­gies and a chance to change

The Washington Post - - CAPITAL BUSINESS -

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

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