I Apologize for Slavery

Michael Dilger
Original 2020 Jun 19th

Last Updated 2021 Jul 24th

I'm white, and lately people have been demanding that I recognize my privilege and apologize for what happened to blacks during American slavery. This document is that apology.

Half of my ancestry comes from ethnic Germans who moved out of the Ukraine to the United States in 1910. They moved because my great grandfather and great grandmother were killed by Russians either over some tax dispute (where they would have been protesting the tax) or during the peasant uprising of 1905 (where the peasants would have been ransacking farms in anger)... what actually happened is lost to history. That was after the American civil war, so they certainly were not slavers. This half of my family was mistreated during WWI and WWII because they were ethnicly German, and Germans were the enemy. Even so, as American citizens they fought for America in both wars, and one of my uncles came back seriously wounded.

On the other side of my family, things get a lot more complicated.

Along one line I descend from one of Abraham Lincoln's grandparents. If you are not aware, Abraham Lincoln was the president that is widely regarded as having freed the slaves. However, even Abraham Lincoln benefitted from the scorge of slavery, as did his grandparents that I descend from, at least to some degree.

Also on that side of the family we find Cherokee indian. Cherokee indians got a real shit deal. Even after a supreme court decision found that Georgia was not allowed to kick them off of their land, the State of Georgia ignored the decision, stole their land and marched them along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma on foot a thousand miles during a harsh winter wherein half of them died. I have as much Cherokee blood as Elizabeth Warren does, which honestly isn't that much. I'm quite certain my Cherokee ancestors were not slavers. Fuck! it turns out that many Cherokee indians did own black slaves. I cannot be sure that my ancestors were not involved.

Two other great great grandparents came out of Germany (Hessen and Baden) and were themselves born in Germany after the American civil war, and were living in America before the first world war broke out. They couldn't have been involved in slavery.

Another was a French late immigrant similar to the two from Germany, but I'm less certain here.

One has a well known name from the American South; however, that side of the family were all early Seventh Day Adventists. While they were abolitionists and not slavers themselves, there may have been slavery further back. And there was a period where the SDA church did participate in segregation.

I know basically nothing about the remaining two of my sixteen great great grandparents, except that one might have been Irish and one might have been Dutch.

The only thing I know for sure about this complex and mixed up half of my ancestry is that I didn't inherit jack shit from that side, as neither did my mother who is still with us. She got a few screwdrivers and old photos when her parents died, and not much else.

At most I can rule out 40/64 of my great-great-great-great-grandparents as having not been involved in slavery. The remaining 24 may have benefited from slavery. I have no data indicating that any of them certainly did, but some of them probably did.

Given that about 30-50% of free people had slaves (depending on the state), statistically speaking, 7 to 12 of my 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents probably had slaves.

And for that I am probably 7/64ths to 12/64ths and at most 24/64ths part deeply sorry and deeply ashamed of my family, and I apologize.

But seriously now, I am entirely sorry. No amount of slavery is forgivable. And even if I didn't benefit from it, I'm terribly sorry and ashamed that people related to me had anything at all to do with it. I really do hope America can heal.

This is my full and final apology. I feel no guilt for things I did not personally do, as I take no pride in things I did not personally do. I did not choose to be white, but neither am I ashamed of it. Anyone levelling accusations against me based solely on the color of my skin is a racist, and I will always call out racism whenever I see it.