One of the most infamous tactics used in America’s history of delaying and denying justice is “sparking a conversation.” If that phrase is ever uttered, you can be sure that whatever promise follows will never come to fruition because “sparking a conversation” never results in action. When slave owners brought human beings to these shores in chains as “chattel,” none sparked a conversation about slavery. One hundred years of Jim Crow did not spark a conversation about Jim Crow. Since 1865, whenever anyone has brought up the idea of reparations for these acts, it always sparks an interesting conversation ... and that’s about it.
Recently, students at two separate universities voted for their institutions to consider reparations for slavery in the form of free tuition. Both schools introduced resolutions that gained the approval of their respective student bodies for their efforts to address the racial disparities in higher education.
In February, students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, passed a resolution that offered free tuition and housing at the university. According to the New York Post, the Associated Students of Madison proposed the idea that could save $20,000 per student. The proposal cited statistics and historical reasons for the measure, including the fact that blacks were legally barred from pursuing an education, combined with the college’s lack of diversity. Aside from free tuition, the students proposed ways to make admission more inclusive and to increase the number of minorities at the college, whose student body is 2 percent black.
The ASM is not simply a student group; it is a grassroots organization that is also part of the Wisconsin state government that “allocates student activity fees, in consultation with the chancellor, and reviews and recommends changes to campus policy pertaining to student life, services and interests.”
Of course, the university’s administration didn’t take too kindly to the demands. While Chancellor Rebecca Blank issued a few empty comments through a spokesperson, Mike Mikalsen, who is an aide to Republican state Sen. Steve Nass (who regularly rails against UW’s liberal policies), called ASM a waste of student fees.
A few days ago, students at Western Kentucky University passed a similar resolution aimed at increasing diversity at WKU (no, that’s not “Woke U”). Introduced by Brian Anderson and Andrea Ambam, the resolution passed the Student Government Association Senate 19-10, and seeks free tuition for black people and other measures. “We demand reparations for the systemic denial of access to high-quality educational opportunities in the form of full and free access for all black people (including undocumented, currently and formerly incarcerated people) to Western Kentucky University,” the measure reads.
The Bowling Green Daily News reported that the president of Western Kentucky issued a statement that read in part:
We appreciate the Student Government Association’s interest in these issues, but it’s important to clarify that their resolution is not an official position taken by the university. I have read the SGA resolution, and I understand that their intent was to spark a conversation, but the university will not adopt any such policy. I’ve spent much of the last year engaging in dialogue with black student leaders on campus, which has led to a greater understanding and appreciation of their experiences and priorities.
On Jan. 16, 1865, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Field Order 15—which set aside 400,000 acres for newly freed slaves—but the measure was quickly rescinded. Last year the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent issued a report that said America’s slaveholding past justifies reparations for African Americans. This morning, I contacted my internet service provider to inquire if—instead of paying my bill—I could instead have a “conversation about my internet service.”
I am not sure if my provider replied because my Wi-Fi doesn’t seem to be working.