Needed—Acknowledgement vs. Reparations and Apologies; Contribution vs. Victimhood

Once again the Victimhood perspective of racial slavery is at the center of the discussion of the history of our nation’s finest colleges and universities. That’s the impact of the nation on the slave. USA Today Network reports that the Jesuits have formally apologized for Georgetown University’s role in slavery. We have already written on the university's sale of 272 enslaved men, women and children to pay off the university’s debts. That happened in 1838. It kept Georgetown from going out of business. Today it is one of our nation’s great institutions of higher learning.

Not that long ago it was Yale University that changed the name of its Calhoun College. They did it to address a long-standing controversy. It involved Calhoun College bearing the name of John C. Calhoun. He was a strong supporter of the institution of slavery. Brown University has also faced up to its slave history. One of its founders who made a fortune trading slaves donated the land to locate the college that bears his family name. Many of the finest colleges and universities in Virginia have actually formed an organization named Universities Studying Slavery to deal with their slave histories.

Don’t be surprised if they “discover” slave histories in their backgrounds. We know that they will. Racial slavery in America is at the foundation of every aspect of America’s birth, growth and survival. Don’t be surprised if they speak of reparations. Don’t be surprised if they change some names. Don’t be surprised if they apologize and hand out some scholarships. Be very surprised if they do anything to elevate the discussion to advocate for a change in the national historical record. Acknowledgement of Unpaid Labor Contribution as the indispensable factor in the USA becoming the most successful nation in modern history would be a game changer. For Black people and White people and the healing of our nation that would be worth all of the tea in China!

Now comes the nation’s premier institution of higher learning - Harvard University. Earlier this year they sponsored a daylong conference on slavery and its historical ties to Harvard and other universities. It brought together some of our country’s most imminent scholars and experts on the subject. It included President Drew Faust of Harvard and esteemed professor Sven Beckert among others. It included MacArthur Fellows Award winners Annette Gordon Reed and Ta-Nehisi Coates. It included an exhibit. The exhibit is entitled “Bound by History: Harvard, Slavery, and Archives” at the Pusey Library. It featured a keynote address by Mr. Coates wherein he called for reparations.

In his address he says “We talk about enslavement as if it were a bump in the road. And I tell people: it’s the road. It’s the actual road.” That’s Contribution. That’s the only statement that is big enough to account for something so monumental as the birth, growth and survival of the United States of America. What can come from the acknowledgement of that statement is nothing less than the healing of the nation’s racial divide that has defied all efforts toward reconciliation.