In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

CHAPTER 4 Remorse, Retribution, and Restoration In 1988, the U.S. Congress issued an apology and authorized a $20,000 payment to each American citizen of Japanese ancestry who had been interned in detention camps during World War II. Momentous as this gesture was for those who had been in the camps, it was an extraordinary moment in the country’s history as it was the most direct apology ever issued by the federal government to a domestic minority group and the first time ever an apology from the U.S. government would come with a payment of reparation. President Reagan himself expressed the apology when signing the bill authorizing payments to the 60,000 living Japanese American citizens who had been detained during the war. Said the president at the signing ceremony, “What is most important in this bill has less to do with property than with honor. For here we admit wrong” (quoted in Nelson 1988). The internment apology may have been part of a grander trend. By some measures, we have become a more remorseful society, both inside and outside of Washington. Aaron Lazare (2004) traces an increase in apologies in professional circles—physicians apologizing to patients for mistakes, for instance—as well as in popular culture: more books, advice columns, and television shows related to apologies. Journalists have noticed an increase in apologies by public figures, identifying “an orgy of apologies spreading across the world” (O’Connor 2004, p. L1; see also Fallow 2005). Looking systematically at news coverage over time bolsters this impression . Starting in 1980, Figure 4.1 tracks the number of New York Times articles that mention “apology” or “apologize” in the headline or lead paragraph. The trend line starts to climb following the congressional apology to Japanese American internees and reaches a new sustained level, almost twice the previous level, in the 1990s and 2000s. The pattern is not just a function of a larger 70 Chapter 4 450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 1 9 8 0 1 9 8 1 1 9 8 2 1 9 8 3 1 9 8 4 1 9 8 5 1 9 8 6 1 9 8 7 1 9 8 8 1 9 8 9 1 9 9 0 1 9 9 1 1 9 9 2 1 9 9 3 1 9 9 4 1 9 9 5 1 9 9 6 1 9 9 7 1 9 9 8 1 9 9 9 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 2 2 0 0 3 2 0 0 4 2 0 0 5 2 0 0 6 2 0 0 7 2 0 0 8 2 0 0 9 2 0 1 0 Apology / Apologize Compromise Figure 4.1. Apologies on the Rise Figure shows the number of New York Times stories mentioning “apology” or “apologize” versus “compromise” in the headline or lead paragraph, by year. Results based on Lexis Nexis searches. denominator (more stories in the Times) or a general softening of society. As Figure 4.1 shows, the trend for “compromise,” which functions as either a noun or a verb, is quite clearly in the opposite direction. There appears to be something more genuinely apologetic in our societal discourse in recent decades. In some respects, the cascade of apologies seems to be reflected in thinking about the exploitation of blacks. Acting independently, religious denominations such as the Southern Baptists, the Moravians, and the Episcopalians have offered formal apologies and ceremonies of remorse for their past discriminatory policies and the participation of their leadership in supporting slavery and Jim Crow laws, as has the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Professional organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association and universities such as University of Virginia and Emory University have also passed resolutions of apology through their membership, faculty, or trustees. Remorse, Retribution, and Restoration 71 Governments, too, have participated in this trend. For instance, there has been a spate of enthusiasm for state-level disclosure laws. State legislatures in California, Illinois, and Iowa, and city governments in Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Philadelphia required firms to investigate and reveal their past role in slavery in order to do business with the government. Particularly vulnerable were banks that financed the purchase of slaves or took slaves as collateral, and insurance companies that issued property insurance for slaves, paid claims for escapees, or offered rewards to bounty hunters to bring back escapees...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.