In the past twenty years or so, it has become common for some group or another to want an apology for how their ancestors were treated by someone else’s ancestors. We should apologize to Native Americans because of what our ancestors did to them in coming to America, or apologize to descendants of slaves for their ancestors having been enslaved in the first place, or Germany apologize to the world for Nazis and Hitler and World War II.
The trouble is, what does that accomplish? It doesn’t change history one iota. More important is how we conduct ourselves now. Maybe my ancestors had slaves, or maybe they didn’t. Maybe if they did they mistreated them, or maybe they didn’t. Nothing I say or do will change that, but I can decide how I will act toward others, be they black, Native American or anything else.
If I’m going to apologize, it should be for what I did wrong, and could therefore have prevented if I made different choices. Otherwise, my apology has little meaning or effect. And I shouldn’t be wantonly doing things, thinking that an after-the-fact apology makes it “all better”, as so many public figures and celebrities do. It’s like those people who say “pardon my French” after they swear, but make no effort not to swear in the first place. The apology is simply meant to absolve them of the wrongdoing and allow them to go on their merry way.
We can do better, and should. I can do better, and will.