- - Thursday, June 30, 2022

The assault on our children’s schools and our workplaces by race activists is rooted in the Marxist tactics long employed on college campuses and the flaccid thinking of college administrators. They have in common an attack on truth. No institution illustrates this pearl-clutching cultural Marxism better than my own Georgetown University. 

Georgetown is reigniting the American Civil War. The cash-strapped Catholic institution is spending donor funds to ensure the Confederacy loses again, deploying a kind of historical revisionism; the kind based on lies and calumny. Georgetown has been fomenting a race hustle.

Georgetown was founded in 1789 on behalf of the Catholic Church, with permission and gold sent from Rome. Contrary to myth, the Jesuits, an order of Catholic priests, were not put in charge until 1815. The Jesuits came with a moral stain. For two centuries, Jesuits had bought, inherited and sold slaves, and exploited slave labor on Maryland plantations. The Vatican instructed them to free their slaves but, as Jesuits do, they ignored Church authority. In 1838, they sold all their enslaved 272 men, women and children. The event was executed with heart-wrenching inhumanity.

The “272” never belonged to Georgetown but to Maryland’s Jesuits. They sold for what today would be $3.3 million. The Jesuits took a down payment of $500K (almost 1/7 of the total) and loaned only that fraction to Georgetown. Georgetown had to pay off that loan, so the question remains: What did the Jesuits do with the $3.3 million? Notably, the Jesuits opened Holy Cross in Massachusetts soon after. 

Even so, in 2016 Georgetown set up a slavery committee. Soon after, the big lie rolled out. A Georgetown professor sounded the alarm: Georgetown owes its existence to this slave sale. This was not true. In fact, other large gifts during those years were also claimed to have “saved” the then-small college from ruin. The NYT headlined the big lie: “272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe Their Descendants?” The remembrance of the great moral stain quickly devolved into talk of reparations. 

Proving that Georgetown lacked culpability, America’s Jesuits took over the reparations guilt for the 1838 sale. When negotiations began their leader reportedly told descendant that “nobody on his side of the table had ever owned or sold anyone, and nobody on the descendants’ side was ever bought or sold, and therefore they owed each other nothing.” He stated what most reasonable Americans would conclude. He was soon taken off the matter. Eventually, Jesuits made a $100 million commitment to future-looking activity rather than paying descendants cash. The descendants lawyered up.

Georgetown, however, seemed eager to join in white guilt with a series of penitential rites. They apologized and renamed buildings named for Jesuits involved in the 1838 sale. This May, they renamed a Catholic chapel honoring a Jesuit because they said he had been a Confederate. Rev. William Cowardin, S.J., devoted 55 years to his Jesuit priestly vocation and was beloved by generations of students. Born in Richmond in 1849, Fr. Cowardin was 15 when the Civil War ended! The once-great Jesuits, who gave us martyrs, have sacrificed common decency at the altar of “woke.” With these offerings, Georgetown has cleverly dodged that its founder, John Carroll, owned slaves, as did his mother for whom a dormitory is named, and that slavers are buried in the Jesuit graveyard.

Enter GU’s Philodemic Society, since 1830 the oldest debate society in the Americas. The walls of its Victorian hall have been adorned since 1910 with 34 antique photographs of Philodemicians who rose to prominence in public life decades after the Civil War as politicians, lawyers, diplomats, doctors, journalists and priests. They had in common only that they had been members and donors who endowed the grand room. 

In 2018, the Philodemic joined the race hustle with their own “slavery committee.” One debate night, a senior rose to advocate that Georgetown’s colors, blue and gray, recalling post-Civil War reconciliation, should lose the gray. He then pointed to the walls noting that some portraits also needed to go. Soon the committee demanded the removal of at least seven and eventually all the portraits. The demand was accompanied by a shoddy report. The blacklisted seven were accused of being slave owners, Confederates and KKK members.  

In fact, of the blacklisted, only one had owned slaves and he was an abolitionist. None were KKK members. One portrait was said to depict the Confederacy’s navy secretary. In fact, it depicted his son who died while a U.S. senator. One, a lifelong Jesuit priest and accomplished Georgetown president, was neither a slave owner, a KKK member nor a Confederate. Fr. James Doonan, son of Irish immigrants was the first Georgetown graduate to become its president. He was blacklisted solely because he was a southerner!  

The race hustle did not stop there. The committee proposed to place a gold plaque in the room claiming that the society had honored Confederates there. That was a bald-faced lie. Confusing debate with issue advocacy, the hustlers argued that because the Philodemic had debated slavery, the plaque should record its “racist” past.

The hustlers became hysterical over even slight dissent, framing dissenters as “racists” and “white supremacists.” When noted that they repeatedly stated in public that their real aim was to remove all the “white faces” and that this was racist, the blacklisters ranted on Facebook but never denied the charge. Instead, to serve their ends they introduced into the once-great society the Marxist tactics of shunning, ouster and banning dissenting voices. 

Georgetown’s administration has swallowed the bamboozle whole with their own performative self-loathing, tainting the noble African American story with lies. They have removed all the portraits, promising to return 27. If the past is prologue, that too is a lie.

• Manuel A. Miranda served as civil rights counsel to former Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist. 

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