The problem with revisionist history is that it is continually being… revised.

It is always tempting for any society to believe that it has reached the highest point of moral and ethical development and can not only point out all the various wrongs of the past and judge them, but redress them, as well.

Even so, civilization evolves – well, at least most of it, some cultures in the Middle East continue to live in the 7th century – and what was once perfectly acceptable, reasonable and legal in the past is often seen as unfair and even barbaric from the distance of a few centuries.

The instinct to make amends for past wrongs can be noble, and the announcement by Georgetown University that it would be taking steps to apologize for actions taken in 1838 has drawn attention for good reason.

In the days long before the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, when slavery was an ugly, but accepted fact of life – even in the northern United States, the university sold slaves to pay off its debts.

Families were separated as 272 men and women were sold for $115,000 – over $3 million today.

Now, 178 years later, the university will offer descendants of the slaves preferred admission status on a par with legacy applicants of faculty, staff and alumni.

A building on campus will be renamed in honor of the slave named first on the bill of sale.

While some would think that the attempt to make amends would be welcomed and praised, descendants – some of them six generations removed from the event – are now arguing that the university has not gone far enough.

“Reconciliation can’t be one-sided,” said one. “Apologies are nice. But apologies without actions are a little meaningless.”

Another argued that many descendants would not be able to reach the prestigious university’s academic standards, suggesting that exceptions might be necessary to allow admission to otherwise unqualified applicants.

And now, just a week after the announcement, a group of descendants is asking for a $1 billion foundation to be established to fund scholarships to Georgetown or any other university.

And therein lies another problem with revisionism.

When and where does it end?



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