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Harvard University is pledging to spend $100 million to study and atone for its extensive ties with slavery, the school’s president announced Tuesday. They also have plans to identify and support the descendants of enslaved people who labored at the Ivy League campus, per AP News.
President Lawrence Bacow announced the funding as Harvard released a new report detailing the many ways the college benefited from slavery and perpetuated racial inequality.
Harvard University president says the right things, but what action will follow?
In his message, Bacow called the findings “disturbing and shocking,” and he acknowledged that the school “perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral.”
“Consequently, I believe we bear a moral responsibility to do what we can to address the persistent corrosive effects of those historical practices on individuals, on Harvard, and on our society,” he wrote.
Harvard is too smart to play this dumb.
The report stops short of recommending direct financial reparations, and officials have no immediate plans for that kind of support.
The 130-page report included a series of recommendations that Bacow endorsed. The $100 million will be used to carry out the work, with some funding to be made available now and more to be held in an endowment.
The report says Harvard should identify the descendants of enslaved people and engage with them “through dialogue, programming, information sharing, relationship building and educational support.”
“Through such efforts, these descendants can recover their histories, tell their stories and pursue empowering knowledge,” the report said.
According to AP News, it urges Harvard to fight racial inequality by expanding education options for descendants of enslaved people, especially in the South and the Caribbean. It calls on the university to work closely with historically Black colleges across the country, with new funding to bring students and scholars to Harvard for up to a year at a time.
So let me get this straight…
Harvard University pledges $100 million to assist Black descendants of slavery and the best plan they could devise is to withdraw students from their HBCUs and bring them to a campus for two semesters where they’ll surely be in the minority, all for a chance to learn at the same place their enslaved ancestors once worked for free?
Not honoring reparations is one thing, but this “solution” goes far out of its own way to assist those in need most. Black people don’t need an Ivy League internship, we need economic empowerment.
Institutions like Harvard utilizing funds that only scratch the surface demonstrates a continued misunderstanding or refusal to do what they know to be morally just.
How do they know a student wants to leave their HBCU for Harvard? Why would they? Recent top college football prospects have foregone Predominantly White institutions in favor of HBCUs like Jackson State University and Black colleges are hotter now than ever before.
Harvard’s plan reeks of Ivy League snobbery by assuming students would want to return back to their ancestor’s plantation as if it is long removed from its racist past.
Other schools lead while Harvard follows.
Georgetown University in 2019 promised to raise $400,000 a year for the descendants of enslaved people sold by the school. The Princeton Theological Seminary created a $27.6 million reparative endowment. The University of Virginia established scholarships for the descendants of enslaved people. With a $50 billion endowment, the largest of any U.S. college, Harvard can afford reparations. Hell, they could’ve bought Twitter and had change to spare.
Harvard’s own Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study offered well thought out and pragmatic solutions as well but the administration instead is choosing an entirely different and potentially wasteful alternative.
The report, commissioned by Bacow, found that Harvard’s faculty, staff and leaders enslaved more than 70 Black and Native American people from the school’s founding in 1636 to 1783. It cautions that the figure is “almost certainly an undercount.”
Much like the White House and Capitol Building, Harvard University prides itself on its exclusivity and regal status while historically ignoring those who erected a palace they would never be seen as royalty in.