Editorial: The importance of apologies
A century after the Springfield Race Riot devastated this city and became a permanent scar on its history, the Springfield City Council is considering an official apology for the riot and its aftereffects.
In the spirit of conciliation brought on by the 100th anniversary of the riot, the Sangamon County Medical Society this week apologized for denying membership to Dr. Alonzo Kenniebrew, who was African-American, in 1929.
Some might see these acts as empty gestures — even unnecessary ones — that attempt to assign misdirected guilt and are powerless to change what happened 100 years ago.
We feel otherwise.
These apologies are important both in their symbolism and, we hope, in publicly marking a resolve to make sure these parts of local history are not repeated.
As an institution, this newspaper is hardly exempt from the collective soul-searching the race riot anniversary has inspired. As mobs ran rampant through the streets of Springfield on Aug. 14 and 15, 1908, The State Journal-Register’s predecessors — The Illinois State Journal and Illinois State Register — provided coverage that only stoked the hysteria of the rioters.
The newspapers did not create all of the tensions that existed that fateful summer, but clearly they share culpability in not doing more to call for reason and restraint. For that failure, we add our apology to what we hope is a growing list of institutions who live in the present but still must reckon with the past.
Without action, words are worthless. For an apology to be truly meaningful, there needs to be a consistent commitment to do whatever possible to help bridge the racial gaps that persist in Springfield a century later.
This paper resolves to work toward that end.
We urge others who face a similar challenge of dealing with the ugliness of the past to make the same effort.