The students of Georgetown University voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve a mandatory student fee to pay reparations for the school’s participation in the slave trade almost two centuries ago. As is typical for my alma mater, Georgetown reveals its real concern is not justice but rather virtue signaling, assuaging guilt, and promoting a showy agenda of “wokeness.”
Regarding the larger issue of reparations, Democratic presidential candidates trip over themselves to pretend this divisive and extremist idea can actually happen. If our country had somehow never dealt with the injustice and inhumanity of slavery, then perhaps a reparations discussion would make sense, although the very concept of multi-generational debts is troubling on its face.
But in point of fact, our country already paid reparations mightily, waging a devastating war to end the evil of slavery. The reparations were paid with the lives of well over 300,000 Union soldiers, men who died to reunite our nation and abolish human bondage on these shores. In fact, the Civil War was so brutal that the total loss of life equates to over 7 million dead in today’s population terms. Those radicals rude enough to demand additional reparations should visit Gettysburg National Cemetery, where over 3,500 Union soldiers lay for eternity, their young lives sacrificed for a great cause that led to the elimination of slavery in our land. Reparations were indeed paid, not just by those brave men but by the widows and orphans they left behind.
Aside from the national issue of reparations, what should be the particular response of Georgetown, whose founding priests owned slaves and sold off hundreds of them in 1838 to keep the then-fledgling academy afloat? For starters, the university issued a sincere apology. The school also instituted legacy status for descendants of Georgetown slaves applying for admissions, treating them, effectively, as the children of alumni. Both moves represent minor but still appropriate accommodations.
But if the university believes it owes a financial debt, 181 years later, then it should be substantially more than the $400,000 per year the student fee will raise and it should be paid directly from the school’s endowment. Moreover, Georgetown occupies some of the most valuable real estate in America. If you mean it, Georgetown, then hand over a healthy chunk of the campus. Even better, how about also taxing the pay of the bloated and biased faculty? Let’s really make it hurt, rather a token add-on paid by parents of students. But Georgetown would rather take the easy road: virtue-signal and appear enlightened in a manner that requires no real sacrifice.
In fact, the madness of this new proposal would require that a black exchange student from Africa now pay an effective fine to Americans as recompense for his own ancestors being trafficked here. Further adding to the insanity, some of those American descendants of slaves may well be majority Caucasian today. “Black guy from Ghana, pay the white kid from Louisiana because his great-great-great-great-grandfather was a slave owned by Georgetown priests.”
If reparations for private institutions like Georgetown make sense, then the school should go well beyond symbolic gestures. On a national scale, reparations represent madness and insult the commitment of this country that spilled rivers of blood to correct our national sin.
Politicians endorsing reparations also insult the intelligence of black voters, thinking they can pander to them with fanciful promises of a literal bribe. Minority voters do not seek government generosity, but rather the conditions to succeed independently, which is why Americans of color increasingly rally to the Trump growth agenda. That agenda will only accelerate over the next 5 ½ years because the president’s reelection prospects vault higher with his likely opponents all playing to the extremes on issues like reparations.
Steve Cortes is a contributor to RealClearPolitics and a CNN political commentator. His Twitter handle is @CortesSteve.