Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Aborigines Get Apology, African Americans Do Not

The Australian government has decided to do for Aborigines something that the U.S. Government has yet to do for African-Americans: apologize for wrong-doings of the past. The Australian government is set to issue its first formal apology to the Aborigines as its first item of business for the new parliament on February 13.

This marks an historic occasion for the country, as it works to progress beyond wounds of the past. The apology is to be issued to the "stolen generation", consisting of those Aborigines who were taken away from their families on the idea that their race was "doomed".

The issue has divided Australians for a very long time, but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has finally pushed the issue forward.

"The apology will be made on behalf of the Australian government and does not attribute guilt to the current generation of Australian people," Macklin said in a statement.

In spite of the apology, Rudd has refused to pay compensation, nor hold the Australian government accountable for the actions of the past. Michael Mansell, an activist in the country, has argued that the government should create an $882 million dollar fund to pay compensation for government wrong doing toward Aborigines.

Aborigines make up less than 5% of the Australian population. They are far more likely to be arrested, imprisoned, unemployed and illiterate. Also, there is a 17 year life expectancy gap between Aborigines and other Australians.

The apology has brought a comparison to African-Americans, who suffer from many of the same problems. Social dilemmas for African-Americans have been linked to 400 years of slavery in the US, for which the American government refuses to apologize.

Christine King of the Stolen Generations Alliance had a great deal to say about the developments in Australia.

"Older people thought they would never live to see this day," King said. "It's very emotional for me and it's very important."

From 1910 through the 1970s, roughly 100,000 Aboriginal children of mixed blood were stolen from their parents due to state and federal laws that said that their race was doomed and that taking the children would be the humane thing to do. The same thing happened to people of color during slavery, when their families were divided and sold to white owners across the country.

An inquiry into the family separations of Aboriginal children showed that the children suffered long-term psychological damage from losing their parents. A government inquiry in Australia argued that the government should apologize to the families and compensate them. But the Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, refused to do either, stating that this government should not be held accountable for policies of the past. The same has been said by U.S. Government Officials as it pertains to slavery.

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