Proud of Being Wise

More

I gave some more thought to Bob McDonnell's proclamation today, and was fairly convinced that he would stand by his guns. We are at this point in our culture where admitting an error is seen as a concession to people we don't like, as opposed to an effort at self-improvement. But I've always thought of admitting your errors as the consummate act of self-interest, a reflection of our self-assurance and self-confidence.


Bob McDonnell expressed his own self-assurance today by apologizing and amending his declaration so that it explicitly acknowledges not simply the institution of slavery, but slavery as the root cause of the Civil War:

WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history.

My initial reaction is that this is one of deep, heart-felt happiness. I have spent the past year and half studying slavery and the Civil War, with a specific focus on Virginia. I have become tied to people who died long ago, and have inherited some piece of them. I took McDonnell's original statement as an affront to people I love. That he changed, even though he must have known that his actions would be reported as a "surrender," deserves note.

There is some sense in my correspondence with conservatives that I enjoy pointing out their flaws, especially around race. I assure you that this is wrong--and it's especially wrong around race. Nothing would please me more than for this cruel, long war to finally end. Nothing would please me more than to take off this armor, and get to the things which I love and are original to me--Carolingian Europe, early Islam, and home-made sushi. I want so bad to take up skiing, to drive across Montana and think nothing of being the only black person for miles. I want to not wince when I hear an Elvis Presley record. I want to believe in the police. 

I think I can speak for my folks, when I say the vast majority of us long to be done with this business. I think, and so dearly hope, that we're headed that way. And I think that McDonnell made a small, but incredibly important, step to getting us closer. Whatever my many disagreements with him, in this specific business, I salute him for doing something we so rarely see these days--committing an act of political courage.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

From This Author

Just In