Group demands University of Chicago pay slavery reparations

Establishing an African-American studies department is a "no-brainer," the group says, as should a "concerted effort to recruit and develop" faculty of color.

The group concedes that reparations, which they term a "re-birthing of America," will be "painful."

A new group at the University of Chicago is demanding reparations for slavery.

The group, called “Reparations at UChicago Working Group,” or RAUC, recently wrote a piece in the Chicago Reporter, titled “A case for reparations at the University of Chicago,” arguing that the university must do more for black people due to the historical debt of slavery.

“This cannot be a question of what the university will do for black communities. It must be a function of what black communities demand as payment to forgive an unforgivable debt,” they write. “Black people do not need a seat at the university’s reparations table. They need to own that table and have full control over how reparations are structured.”

The article also argues that “[e]stablishing an African American Studies department should be a no-brainer," as should "a concerted effort to recruit and develop faculty of color while vigorously recruiting and mentoring underrepresented students to attend the university.

"But this should happen anyway," they write. "It’s not reparations.”

The group also calls capitalism a “monstrosity,” writing of the need to think “beyond the legal framework of ‘damages,’ or the neoliberal ordering of private property rights, or the monstrosity of capitalism.”

“Reparations promise us a monumental re-birthing of America. Like most births, this one will be painful. But the practice of reparations must continue until the world that slavery built is rolled up and a new order spread out in its place.

“Until then, the University of Chicago must begin all of its conversations with the knowledge that it is party to a horrific crime that can never be fully rectified. But still it must try. And through that trying it must embrace an entirely new mission—one that centers slavery, the lives of the enslaved, and their descendants,” the article concludes.

RAUC consists of, Ashley Finigan, described as “a PhD candidate in the History Department and residential fellow at the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.” and Caine Jordan, “a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History.”

Two other members are Guy Emerson Mount, who is described as “a Mellon Foundation Fellow and the coordinator of the U.S. History Workshop at the University of Chicago,” and Kai Parker, a PhD student.

Guy Emerson Mount has previously written that America is a “centuries-long nightmare.”

“White progressives, liberals, and centrists are all absolutely befuddled. They simply can’t believe that the America of their dreams is being exposed for the centuries-long nightmare that it is,” he wrote after Trump’s 2016 election win.

“Either way, we must face the facts. American democracy died a long time ago. Perhaps around 1492. Trump may also mean the end of the American Republic,” he also said of Trump’s win.

“To that, I say good riddance. Whatever we build together in its ashes can’t possibly be worse than what we had. Maybe this time we’ll decide on democracy.”

RAUC is hardly the first college group to call for reparations. In 2013,  students at Northwestern University petitioned to give reparations to relatives of Arapaho and Cheyenne victims of the Sandy Creek Massacre in 1864. Similarly, the student government at Western Kentucky voted earlier this year to give black students free tuition as a form of reparations. 

Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson suggested in January that whites should open up "individual reparations accounts" to literally pay back black Americans for slavery. 

Campus Reform reached out to both UChicago and individual members of RAUC, but they did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.

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