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The dark heritage of the elite University

In the middle of the Campus of Georgetown University, in the most prestigious district of Washington, is a cemetery, which recalls the history of the University. The grave stones look almost all the same, plain and unadorned, they belong to the priests and brothers of the Jesuit order, who are buried here. The Jesuits had founded Georgetown was once the first Catholic University in the United States. In the year 1838, the Institution from financial Ruin, and in order to get cash, decided the priests to sell the 272 slaves, which were in their possession. This business has secured the University of the future – and damn the slaves to a life on plantations in the deep South of the USA.

It is a dark Chapter in the history of the elite University, one of the graduates of the former US President Bill Clinton, but it is one that could change the debate in America about the heritage of the slavery . Recently, the students of Georgetown, decided in a vote, and a Fund for reparations set up in order to compensate for the estimated 8000 living descendants at the time sold slaves. Each Student Deposit per Semester is 27 dollars and 20 Cents, in addition to the ordinary tuition fees. A panel of representatives from the student body and of the descendants should decide what the money is used.

the duty of The student

reparations – something that had already claimed the civil rights leader Martin Luther King – are being negotiated in a new urgency. The Fund would be established in fact, would be Georgetown, the first major Institution of the country, which would pay reparations. Yet it is not, however, The vote of the students is not binding, then the school Board must decide how you shall proceed. University President John DeGioia praised after the vote, the commitment of the students and said the school was ready, the "difficult issues" to address, the put. What that means specifically, is not currently clear.

The processing of the own past, the University started late. Only after construction workers were a few years ago when Working on the Campus on the bones found were the Remains of buried slaves, started the University a Commission of inquiry, apologized and agreed to make it easier for descendants of the slaves the access to one of the coveted places to study.

Also, other elite universities have a problematic past.

That wasn't enough, Hannah finds Michael, a black student who is one of the initiators of the Fund. "The University today would not exist without the sale of the slaves." The idea of the Fund is not to punish anyone. But with a prestigious degree from Georgetown students benefited from the legacy of slavery. "It is important that we use our resources to give something back." It is not the job of the school alone, for the mistakes of the past. "The students are also in the obligation." Several groups of students traveled last year, according to Maringouin, a village in Louisiana, where many descendants of the then selling slaves live. You should benefit from the Fund by about infrastructure projects will be financed in the village.

In the case of the students of the Fund led to much discussion. "The University alone, the student body, has the obligation to pay for its past mistakes," wrote two leaders of the opponents in the student newspaper "The Hoya". It is no longer voice, it would be the University without the Slave trade, 1838. "But the students of today are not to blame for the sins of the Institution in the past."

Others find that it is wrong that African-American students would have to pay into the Fund, just because many people could afford the annual tuition fees of 55'000 dollars, anyway. A third of the students voted finally against the Fund.

A Test for the Democrats

Already takes account of the debate, the student circles outside the University. Other elite universities on the East coast – including Harvard, Brown or the University of Virginia – have a problematic history, which has Connections to slavery. The employment of a continued part only hesitantly. What is happening in Georgetown, show now that the political climate change in America, said historian Marcia Chatelain to the online magazine "Politico". Many people come to the conclusion that it is not enough to condemn racism verbally. "It is going to take responsibility for past decisions that continue to resonate today." In fact, the theme has a long way to the democratic presidential campaign.

Cory Booker, one of the twenty candidates of the party, and even direct descendant of slaves, filed in the Senate a bill that calls for a scientific study of the reparations question. The economic oppression of African-Americans have not stopped with the abolition of slavery in 1865, he said. It had been in the past few decades, a variety of racist structures that have led to this disadvantage. Reparations are a way to correct the consequences of this policy.

in addition, Booker has spoken out a number of other presidential candidates for reparations, including the Senator of the interior, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren and former Congressman Beto O'rourke. This is also due to the pressure of the left party basis, many candidates see in the primaries exposed: the claim is popular. Among Americans overall, it looks different. In the surveys two-thirds of the population reparations reject, even among African Americans, only a slim majority.


What is meant by reparations, who would have to claim it, and the Form in which they focused would: All of this is this debate is hardly ever clear. Kamm Howard, Co-President of the National coalition of Blacks for reparations in America, defines reparations as "any Form of compensation, the people of African-American origin helps to build wealth". This includes tax relief, education vouchers or business loans.

The way of the claim to the political reality seems in any case very far. At Georgetown University, the students hope to have a first step.

(editing Tamedia)

Created: 29.04.2019, 22:32 PM

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