RICHMOND, Va. -- Regret.
That the sentiment expressed by a Virginia newspaper for supporting the state's fight to maintain separate schools for blacks and whites in the 1950s.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch said in Thursday's editorial that it played a central role in the "dreadful doctrine" of Massive Resistance -- a systematic campaign by Virginia's white political leaders to block school desegregation. The newspaper says that "the record fills us with regret."
Massive Resistance inflicted pain then. Memories remain painful. Editorial enthusiasm for a dreadful doctrine still affects attitudes toward the newspaper. Many remember. We understand. Words have consequences. Artful paragraphs promoted ugly things. Stylish sentences salted wounds. Euphemism was profligate. As members of the Fourth Estate these pages did not keep a proper distance, either. The debate is over. It is done.
The newspaper took the unusual step of promoting the editorial on its front page. It comes on the eve of a conference in Richmond marking the 50th anniversary of the end of Massive Resistance, and on the same day President Barack Obama was to address the NAACP as it marked its 100th annual convention.
The reaction in the comments on the newspaper's Web site ranged from "apology too late" to "why apologize now?"
"You apologizing is the same thing as a 40 year old German apologizing for the Holocaust," one commenter wrote.
"I wonder how many editorial stances you are taking today that you will be apologizing for in 50 years. (assuming there is a RTD in 50 years.)," another commenter posted.
And yet another didn't approve of the choice of words the paper took, saying one key phrase was missing:
"Nice try, but I didn’t hear 'we’re sorry,' " the commenter said. "An expression of regret is not an apology."