Marching for forgiveness in Annapolis Anne Arundel County: How can a mass public apology right private indiscretions?

September 21, 1995

An editorial in The Sun for Anne Arundel Thursday incorrectly noted the date of this weekend's "March for Forgiveness" in Annapolis. The march is tomorrow.

The Sun regrets the errors.

THIS SATURDAY, African-American men will walk through Annapolis in a "March for Forgiveness," an event intended as a preview of Louis Farrakhan's "Million Man March," set for Oct. 16 in Washington, D.C. The organizers of the local march are billing it as a collective apology from black men for all the wrongs they have ever committed. It's supposed to be an uplifting, soul-cleansing experience -- and the participants may indeed feel a sense of empowerment and solidarity when all is said and done. In that sense, the march serves a purpose.

Whether it will accomplish anything more than that is doubtful, largely because the men who truly have something for which to apologize -- those who are using drugs, neglecting their families and abusing their significant others -- aren't the ones who will be walking. Most of the participants will be community activists and decent husbands, fathers and citizens. Who does it help if they ask forgiveness for wrongs they haven't committed? The best of us, of course, have something to atone for in our personal lives. It matters greatly to those we love to hear us say we're sorry, to see us try to change. But that is best accomplished privately, within our own homes, not by demonstrating.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Generally speaking, the country would be better off with less marching and more doing. This is not to say such demonstrations don't have value. They have provided some unforgettable moments in our history; they can raise awareness, rouse emotion, forge bonds between people with common goals.

But successful marches are simple demonstrations for or against something. Their message is unmistakable. This march is not like that. Its message leaves onlookers wondering what the marchers are saying. That all black men are culpable? That black men are more in need of expiation than others?

Good intentions are driving the March for Forgiveness. And as symbolism, it's positive. But men who have been remiss toward their families and communities -- if they even plan to be present -- would do better to stay home and change their behavior than parade through the streets.

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