This spring The New York Times published several stories about Georgetown University’s history of selling slaves. As a Georgetown alum, I followed those stories and joined family members and Harvest Time friends in processing the impact of learning about this history. In those conversations, I shared my grief that Jesuit priests, the priests who taught me about the faith that does justice, were at the heart of this sale of slaves. I also wondered how Georgetown, and those of us who benefited from a Georgetown education, should respond to this history.
As I reflected on this issue and read what Georgetown was doing in response, I kept feeling as if a piece was missing. One quiet morning early this month, I sat down and penned a letter to the president of the university, offering my perspective. Below is the text of that letter. I want to share it with you because I am aware that many of us in the Harvest Time network are pondering how to best respond to the realities of racism that are present in our history and culture. Here is one way that I am responding.
Dear Dr. DeGioia,
As a Georgetown alum, I have followed with interest and grief the New York Times’ recent stories about Georgetown’s sale of slaves. I have also read your letter to the Georgetown community and your speech about steps the university is taking to face this history and address current realities of racial injustice. I commend you and the university for making such a bold commitment to addressing the persistent legacy of racism.
And as I read about this issue, I keep feeling as if a piece is missing, a piece that I learned from the Jesuits. I offer my perspective now in a spirit of gratitude for my Georgetown education and formation.
In addition to the steps you have outlined to make Georgetown an academic center for studying African American experience and exploring possible reparations, I suggest that Georgetown also develop opportunities to do the inner spiritual work necessary to become conscious of and uproot the sins of racism that live inside the human mind and heart. Without attention to the inner dynamics of racism, I fear our actions will fall short of true reconciliation.