Needed Apologies

The ends of the earth - Australia and America - have now heard apologies for what governments shamelessly did to people of color long ago. May future investigations of today's governments not find reasons for apology by the next generation.

Last week Australian Premier John Howard gave a personal apology for his country's half century (up to the 1970s) of forcibly separating 100,000 Aboriginal children from their parents. Mr. Howard's government, however, has refused to make an official apology. We hope it won't take Australia as long to do that as it took the US in the case of 399 unwitting black men in a 1932-72 study of untreated syphilis. Only last month did such an apology come from President Clinton.

The US study was in the name of science. The Australian policy was in the name of saving the children of a supposedly doomed indigenous people. The dark-skinned offspring of Aborigines were sent to orphanages, the lighter-skinned put up for adoption by white Australians. The practice amounted to a form of genocide, said a report issued last week by a government-appointed body of inquiry.

But the subjugation of individuals by government doesn't have to be labeled genocide to be deplored - and to have its consequences ameliorated when acknowledged at last.

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