A lot of people are talking about income inequality and wealth disparity. My friends post statistics bemoaning the fact that, for example, the wealthiest 62 billionaires have as much money as the poorest 50 percent of the world.
This is startling, and worth knowing about. But is it itself a problem?
In 1838 the Jesuits who ran Georgetown University sold 272 slaves in order to keep the school afloat. The college relied on Jesuit plantations in Maryland to finance the school, and slaves were sometimes given to the Jesuits by parishioners. The sale of the slaves in 1838 would be worth $3.3 million today. The university is considering what, if anything, it owes the descendants of those slaves. Richard Cellini, a Georgetown alumnus and CEO of a technology firm, has established a nonprofit organization and hired eight genealogists to track down those slaves and their descendants. A university group is also studying how Georgetown could make amends for its involvement in slavery (New York Times, April 16).