June 26, 1995 in City

The Right Words Can Undo Misdeeds

By The Spokesman-Review

One of the hardest things to say in life is: “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” Yet, those words restore relationships and free the one who committed the wrong from guilt, misguided pride and, sometimes, the bondage of hate.

That’s why apologies are important, even belated ones.

Within the last two weeks, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, a Spokane political organization, and a convicted felon all took the important step of confessing racial wrongs. The Southern Baptist Convention apologized for condoning slavery during most of its history. Spokane County Democrats decided to apologize for a racial slur. And an imprisoned racist admitted he was wrong for a 1986 Coeur d’Alene bombing.

The admissions should allow healing to begin between races and people. They also should encourage human-rights activists that their seemingly endless struggle for racial and religious harmony isn’t in vain. People can forsake bigotry.

The overwhelmingly white Southern Baptist Convention did so last week - though it took 150 years. Born of the split between North and South over slavery, the nation’s largest Protestant church repudiated “historic acts of evil such as slavery” and asked for forgiveness.

More importantly, the 20,000 delegates to the church’s annual convention dedicated themselves to eradicating vestiges of racism. Repentance is hollow unless backed by action. Said Baptist minister Clifford Jones: “To merely denounce historical racism and or slavery and yet not actively seek to promote parity, justice and equality in the 21st century is really an act of futility.”

Locally, Spokane County Democrats are expected to make a formal announcement and unconditional public apology this week for a slur that spawned a lawsuit and party turmoil. In November 1992, a party official used the word “chinks” to describe Asian owners of the Davenport Hotel.

Spokane Democrats have embarrassed themselves and added to the Inland Northwest’s stereotype as a racist haven with their inability to resolve their racial crisis. The overdue apology should bring closure to this sorry chapter in local politics.

Finally, supremacist Robert Pires’ apology to human-rights activist Bill Wassmuth proves racial hatred isn’t incurable. Pires, serving a lengthy prison sentence for, among other things, helping in the 1986 Coeur d’Alene bombings, apologized through a reporter.

Originally, Pires and two other supremacists intended to kill Wassmuth, then chairman of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. But they put a pipebomb in a trashcan alongside Wassmuth’s home to scare him instead. Pires says he was haunted by the look on Wassmuth’s face the next day as he watched television coverage of his crime.

Unsuspecting cameramen allowed Pires to see his enemy for the first time. Now, he realizes, it was him.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

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