Kendall has posted a bit from this New York Times article regarding the attempt by Brown University to acknowledge and atone for the institution’s ties to Slavery. I posted the following comment on Titusonenine about the article:

I for one am glad to see an institution facing the reality of its past and its ties to slavery–particularly a northern one–rather than pointing a self-satisfied finger at the benighted South. As long as this doesn’t turn into a complete vilification of those figures in Brown’s past with ties to slavery, then it seems to be a healthy approach–though I am unsure how the plan to recruit more minority students from Africa and the West Indies is supposed to help them come to terms with the past–that part seems thrown in only to placate some liberal guilt.

Also, I have to disagree with Maryland Brian–I don’t think one can say that dead union soldiers who died while fighting for many motives under orders given by men with their own can be said to have died specifically to wipe out the blot of slavery from the nation’s soul. After all, it was Honest Abe himself who in 1838 said “Towering genious. . .thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves or enslaving freemen.” The Union no more fought specifically to end slavery than the South fought solely to defend it (though certainly it was very, very important and a central motivating factor for the upper classes at least).

This is a very important issue for the United States because it stands contra our national and personal myths of sinlessnes and chosen-ness. Americans, for the most part, have little sense of history or place and as a result, little or no understanding of sin. This is one place that I’ve felt the South, at its best, can act as mirror for the rest of the country, as an image of the nation’s shadow side, the place where place and history, family and generational connectedness is not forgotten, where the “past is not even past” and therefore sin–even generational sin–can be clearly seen when one is looking. This is the only way Americans will ever come to grips with the mixed bag that is our history. It is a lesson that other nations and peoples have learned–there are no unsullied motives or sinless leaders shining brightly. There are only broken and sinful people stumbling around, occasionally embracing the “better angels” of their nature.

Perhaps, rather than condemning such actions on the part of institutions such as Brown, my fellow conservatives should do more to direct such reflection and soul-searching in a more productive direction–one that leads to the recognition that we are all guilty, and all in need of the saving love of Jesus Christ, individually and corporately.

Finally, with apologies for rambling, I would like to recommend the book “Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story” by Timothy B. Tyson. It is very good.

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