Virginia Seminary to Designate Funds for Reparations


From the seminary’s press release:

Virginia Theological Seminary recognizes that enslaved persons worked on the campus, and that even after slavery ended, VTS participated in segregation. VTS recognizes that we must start to repair the material consequences of our sin in the past.

The income from the endowment will be allocated annually in conversation with key stakeholders for the following purposes:

    • the needs emerging from local congregations linked with VTS;
    • the particular needs of any descendants of enslaved persons that worked at the Seminary;
    • the work of African American alumni/ae, especially in historic Black congregations;
    • the raising up of African American clergy in The Episcopal Church;
    • other activities and programs that promote justice and inclusion.
The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D. dean and president of VTS, explained: “This is a start. As we seek to mark Seminary’s milestone of 200 years, we do so conscious that our past is a mixture of sin as well as grace. This is the Seminary recognizing that along with repentance for past sins, there is also a need for action.”
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Kurt Hill
Kurt Hill

Reparations is a very bad idea, IMO. I understand the positive motivations behind the call, but I think that class-based affirmative action programs--for people of all races and ethnic groups who need a helping hand up--is a far better way of approaching the problem of inequality. As late as the 1960s Reparations for slavery made some sense, since there were still a fair number of actual children of slaves living in this country--immediate, direct descendants of those who had been enslaved. Even the Germans don't pay reparations beyond the immediate descendants of those who suffered under the Nazi regime. One can only imagine what white supremacists would do with such a program to act as a foil for their racist propaganda...

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Simon Burris
Simon Burris

I don't see how anything other than compensation to the descendants of the specific slaves could count as "reparations." The idea that some of the product of the slaves' (forced) labor will contribute to "the raising up of African American clergy in The Episcopal Church" just seems like a convenient conflation of the slaves' interests with the interest of TEC.

I think real reparations don't come with strings attached, and aren't channeled through the pet projects of the original slave holders. If VTS really wants to pay reparations, they should find the descendants, calculate the wages, cut the checks, send them out, and not try to control how the money is spent.

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