Reparations And The Need For A Deeper Intellectual Discussion


God on Wall Street

Rev. Curtis O. Robinson, Sr.

In 2017, Drew Gilpin Faust, then President of Harvard University, drew national acclaim when she presented to the academic world a conference entitled “Universities And Slavery: Bound By History.” Faust brought attention to the involvement of Harvard and the school’s support of slavery. (Succeeded by Lawrence Bacow, however, Faust’s  retirement ‘present’ was a seat on the Board of Director’s at Goldman Sachs.)

So entrenched was Harvard’s involvement in the justification of slavery, that one-time professor, Louis Agassiz created a discipline called “polygenism.” Defenders of slavery used polygenism to maintain that the different races were completely and genetically distinct and that slavery was a natural condition for an inferior race.

President Faust put a spotlight on this claim, and today, Harvard is trying to make adjustments. In a plaque on the walls of Harvard’s Law School, it reads, “IN HONOR OF THE ENSLAVED WHOSE LABOR CREATED WEALTH THAT MADE POSSIBLE THE FOUNDING OF HARVARD LAW SCHOOL.”

Let’s be clear, slavery is about economics for America, but more importantly it is about power. In his book, “Slavery And Social Death: A Comparative Study,”  author Orlando Patterson said, “Slavery is one of the most extreme forms of the relation of domination, approaching the limits of total power from the viewpoint of the master, and of total powerlessness from the viewpoint of the slave.”

Slavery was about money, but it was also about one race of people assuming power over another race of people. Agassiz used his influence from his lofty perch at Harvard to assure slaveholders that they were completely justified in their stance to rule over an assumed inferior race of people, a master- slave relationship that lingers today.

Two years ago, French President Emanuel Macron suggested that we need to remember the darkness of slavery for the purposes of reconciliation, but not for reparations. This is linguistically abnormal when you consider the etymological definition of reparations. There are three words that define reparations; reconciliation, restoration, and repair. So, that means that reconciliation and reparations belong in the same box.

Macron, quite possibly could have been asleep in his French History class. In 1919, the “Treaty Of Versailles,” was established in Paris. It  included an intellectual discussion about reparations for Europe after World War I.

However, it’s time for African Americans to wake up to this phenomenon, and it’s time for reconciliation, restoration, and repair. The world needs it!


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