On September 1st, Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit higher education institution in the U.S., apologized for its past involvement in slavery. The following day, Associate Professor George J. Collins of the History Department, contributed an article to the NY Times.
PBS NewsHour also reported the apology on the 1st . The following is an outline of their report:
- In 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to Louisiana State, and 15-20% of the profits went into repaying the university’s debts.
- Georgetown University was not the only higher education institution that gained profits from slave trade. Slave merchants or slaveholders founded all of the 9 universities that were established before the war of Independence.
- A new institution was built every year between the Revolution and 1800, adding up to a total of 17, and all of these schools restored their post-Revolutionary financial blows through slave trading.
It reveals how much the U.S. was dependent on slave trade at the time.
As a scholar and Jesuit priest, Professor Collins holds the opinion that the U.S. should reflect upon and learn from its slave history. The main points in his NY Times article are as follows:
- The Jesuits were involved in slavery, and catholic priests and educational system earned profits from slave labor. Money for missionary work, church activities, and the educational organization came from slave trading.
- The Jesuits, whose history goes back to colonial Maryland in 1634, has many splendid moments, but it also has a dark side of racism, hypocrisy and brutality. Slaveholding and trading that lasted over 2 centuries is evidence of this.
- “Slavery is our history, and we are its heirs. America would not be America except for its deplorable history of slavery.”
He ends the article with an inspiring message: “There will be no ‘liberty and justice for all’ until we understand that [America is built upon a history of slavery] . . . as a nation.”
Racism Is Still Part of America
Slavery was abolished and black people were given the right to vote when great men stood up to fight: men like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.
The sad truth is racism is an ongoing problem in the U.S. It is painful to see news of incidents where white police shoot black people, and the retaliation by black people through the killing white officers.
Whites Reincarnate as Blacks, and Blacks as Whites
Someone’s value is not determined by his/her race or the color of his/her skin. In essence, humans are souls who are born and reborn on this earth in different environments and human relationships to gain experience and attain inner growth.
So someone who is born as a white person in this lifetime, he/she could be born black in the next life; a Christian in this lifetime could just as easily become Muslim in the next.
Understanding this process of reincarnation shows just how foolish racism is.
The U.S. is in dire need of this reflection of history (as seen in Georgetown University’s apology and its related news articles) and knowledge of the process of reincarnation. This awakening and process of understanding at Georgetown is a step toward reconciliation and an example of what can be done to foster awareness and change.