April 6, 2007

How To Apologize

A Texas radio host made a Texas-sized blunder during a debate about a bill in the state legislature that would issue a formal apology for slavery. Michael Berry, in an attempt to apply the apology efforts elsewhere to oppose it, wondered why Native Americans should get enormous welfare benefits after getting "whipped in a war". I suppose it might have made sense if (a) Indian tribes actually got enormous welfare benefits, and (2) that had anything to do with apologizing for slavery.

Berry came to the same conclusion after checking his facts -- and he manned up immediately afterwards:

A Houston City Council member and conservative radio host has apologized for saying taxpayers are paying large amounts of welfare to American Indians who are "whining" about having been "whipped in a war."

Michael Berry said Thursday that he posted the apology on his station's Web site the night before "not because I offended people but because I was wrong."

"My facts were wrong, and the basis of my facts was wrong," he said.

Berry said on his KPRC-AM talk show March 27 that Indians do not deserve the "incredible" amount of federal assistance they receive.

As many of his listeners and critics pointed out to Berry, Native Americans do not receive disproportionate amounts of welfare. In fact, for those of us who have lived near a reservation, it becomes patently clear when passing through them that the tribes have almost nothing -- no money, no good land, and no prospects for improvement. The reservations of Arizona when I lived there rivaled Third World countries for poverty. The conditions on the reservations shocked me. Gambling has provided revenue sources to some of these tribes since then, but welfare has done nothing for them.

However, Berry did the right thing. He acknowledged his error and apologized for being wrong, and not just for giving offense. We can compare that to the non-apologies offered by John Kerry for inferring that stupid people wind up in the military, Dick Durbin for comparing Guantanamo Bay to Nazi death camps, and Newsweek's apology for not doing anything wrong in the Qur'an flushing story. Instead of offering excuses and arguments, Berry simply apologized for his error and acknowledged his fault.

It's refreshing. Hopefully, it will be instructive as well.


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Comments (8)

Posted by Tom Shipley [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 6, 2007 6:53 AM

He was wrong AND offensive but chose to make a "point" by only apologizing for being wrong.

Excuse me if I'm not the first in line to stroke him off.

Posted by Monkei [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 6, 2007 6:56 AM

People apologize differently ... he probably still believes it personally, but his political side (and career) force him to take an apologetic stance.

Posted by Frank Warner [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 6, 2007 7:25 AM

You’re right about apologies. A real apology describes exactly what you did wrong, acknowledges you hurt someone else, and, explicitly or implicitly, asks the person (or people) you hurt for their forgiveness.

You’re wrong about American Indian reservations having “no money, no good land, and no prospects for improvement.” They have a little money, lots of good land and infinite prospects for improvement.

But as a sympathetic Meriam Report concluded in 1928, American Indians have been “pauperized,” kept idle and deprived of the habits of natural initiative by U.S. policy going back to the Indian Wars.

As John J. Miller noted last year in OpinionJournal, Indians living on resevation land do much worse than other people living on comparable land next door. Why?

One reason is that people off the reservation can own their land individually, are are more likely to care for it and themselves. On the reservation, the land is owned in common by the tribe, so in effect, no individual can have his own house or business or land.

The other reason is that the 1.6 million American Indians on the 300 reservations are far too accustomed to the government giving them just enough to get by, and as a result, they accept a “windfall economy,” waiting for the cash to drop in.

These hurtful policies have walled in their spirit. For that, the United States should apologize.

Posted by LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 6, 2007 8:02 AM

Frank, if you read the Congressional Record from the time the Bureau of Indian Affairs et al were established, you'd realize that making the Indian nations dependent was the intent. They were tired of the Indian wars, and this was better than a policy of extermination.

I don't know if LBJ was aware of it or not, but his "War on poverty" had a lot of similarities with those programs, so I'm not surprised that they keep "the poor" in a state of dependency. I suspect that some of the "progressives" want it that way,

Posted by Rick Moore [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 6, 2007 8:12 AM

Maybe in Texas and Minnesota Native Americans don't get significant benefits by virtue of the ways of the evil white men from the past, but that's not true in California. San Diego County, where I spent most of my working days, is littered with Indian casinos that are turning tiny tribes into collections of millionaires. Foxwoods in Connecticut is one of (if not) the biggest casino operation in the country and is run by the local tribe.

Can you or I open a casino? No. So don't tell me that at least some Native Americans are being granted a huge slice of the economic pie just because they belong to some little local tribe that may or may not have once ruled the area.

The councilman was wrong to make the comparison that he did in relation to slavery, and good for him for apologizing, but I'm not sure his facts were all that far off.

Posted by Immolate [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 6, 2007 8:23 AM


You said "John Kerry for inferring that stupid people wind up in the military".

John Kerry did not infer, he implied. You inferred. Consider that nit picked.

Posted by frequent flyer [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 6, 2007 11:22 AM

Captain--how can you live in Minnesota and imply that the indians have nothing--and that somehow it is "the white man's fault?" Have you EVER seen a successful "reservation" ANYWHERE?

As a Minnesota-based pilot, I've been to indian reservations all over North America (so it is NOT a U.S. problem). EVERY reservation has these same poverty problems--and they have had the same problems for well over 100 years. It is at once:

A. Evidence that government "controls" are a failure.
B. Demonstration that people living communally and dependent on support by others will NEVER rise from their condition of dependency.
C. The great wealth of the tribes operating casinos is NOT shared with their relatives on the reservation.

It's high time that we:

A. Abolish the reservation system--it is a demonstrated failure.
B. Let the indians be integrated into the rest of society.
C. Revoke the "special nation" status conferred upon indian tribes by activist courts--unlimited fish and game harvest, ability to sell cigarettes and other products tax free, etc.
D. Follow the Canadian lead, and establish once and for all who IS a "treaty" indian--with "first nation" rights.
E. Serve notice on the casinos that if they don't share the wealth with ALL registered "treaty" indians, that the State will allow non-indian casino's to be built.

The reservation system is a national disaster--not because it was "intended" to fail, but a failure, like all socialism.

Posted by hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 6, 2007 1:14 PM

Michael is one of my City council members. He is infamous for half-brained popping off.
He is more libertarian than conservative.
He is a so-so talk show host and so-so Council member.
He gets a lot of practice in apologizing.