Am I American or White, and what are you? Roger Cohen writes in the New York Times that Americans have a huge Holocaust Memorial Museum because we prefer to mourn crimes not of our making. What we need, he argues, is a truth and reconciliation commission like the ones we have demanded of other nations.
If we did that kind of thing, an essential question to be asked is who will do the apologizing, and who will receive the apology? If America needs to say it's sorry to blacks who were victims of slavery, lynchings, etc., then blacks living today will need to feel as guilty as whites because we are equally Americans, and America and Americans committed those injustices.
If blacks--or Cohen, for that matter--say that blacks should not feel guilty because they are the victims not the perpetrators, then what that implies is that black Americans alive or dead are like an organism, and white Americans living or deceased are an organism, and the one was victimized by the other. Another implication is that these two groups are much more meaningful than the group we call "Americans." (To keep things simple, I am leaving out other groups).
If whites are expected to feel guilty for past crimes because race trumps citizenship, then race should also be relied on to frame accomplishments as well. America did not put a man on the moon: white Americans did. America has not invented so many great technologies that benefit the world: white Americans did. America did not build so many wonderful universities: white Americans did.
I'm pretty flexible. I'm just trying to find some fairness and consistency. If you are asking me to define myself as a cell in the White Race, I can do that but I will take credit as well as blame. If you're asking me to define myself as an American, I will take blame as well as credit, but you must do the same, and that's true if you're black, Jewish, Mexican, whatever.