Slate's Summer Movies: The End of Movie Rentals?
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
The US Senate on Monday formally apologized for its repeated failure over the years to pass anti-lynching legislation. Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia said that by not passing the legislation years ago, lawmakers appeared to condone the killings.
Senator GEORGE ALLEN (Republican, Virginia): We don't condone it these days. But it is something to understand that now tonight we're going to have these photographs, we're going to look at our history, this stain on the history of the United States Senate, and I think it does show the character of this nation, that we are still trying to achieve that most perfect union.
CHADWICK: From the 1800s to the 1960s, nearly 200 bills were introduced in Congress to ban lynching. During that time, thousands of African-Americans were lynched as the Senate failed to act. That sorry record got the Explainer team at our online partner Slate magazine wondering: When do federal lawmakers say they're sorry? Here with the answer is Slate's Andy Bowers.
ANDY BOWERS (Slate): Not very often. As far as Congress' official historians can remember, the practice began in the late 1980s, although no one has done exhaustive research on the matter. In 1987, the House passed a resolution to apologize for the internment and relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II. The Senate passed an equivalent bill the following year. In 1992, the Senate voted to apologize for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The House followed suit a year later and Congress expressed its official regrets to native Hawaiians. The House, though, rejected a 1997 proposal to apologize for slavery, and the Senate failed to pass an anti-lynching apology last year. In 2004, some members of Congress also tried, unsuccessfully, to pass an official declaration of remorse for the treatment of American Indians. Both houses are again considering an apology for the treatment of Indians.
Why are apologies so rare? One reason is that lawmakers might be afraid an admission of guilt will lead to claims for government reparations like those offered to the victims of wartime internment. On the other hand, purely symbolic votes without policy implications are popular on Capitol Hill. Congressional tributes that express general appreciation for a person or thing date back to the early days of the nation and continue to the present day. Last Wednesday, for example, the Senate passed a bill to recognize the importance of preventing sun damage. A few months earlier, senators unanimously agreed to commend the men's gymnastics team from the University of Oklahoma for winning the NCAA championship.
CHADWICK: Andy Bowers is a senior editor at our online partner Slate magazine, and that Explainer was researched by Daniel Engber. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.