Thomas Sowell

The president of Brown University has appointed a committee to look into the history of the connections of that institution to the slave trade. This is to be no academic exercise of scholarly research. There is obviously supposed to be a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons was coy on the one hand but clear on the other. According to the New York Times, "Dr. Simmons said she would not reveal her opinion on reparations so as not to influence the committee."

"Here's the one thing I'll say," she said. "If the committee comes back and says, 'Oh it's been lovely and we've learned a lot,' but there's nothing in particular that they think Brown can or should do, I will be very disappointed."

How is that for not influencing the committee? If there is anything worse than race hustling, it is being coy about race hustling. At least Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are up front.

Dr. Simmons said that the idea of appointing a committee to look into Brown University's past came to her because she is a descendant of slaves and the building in which she works was built with the help of slaves. Unfortunately, there are descendants of slaves all over the world, and they are every color of the rainbow.

Slavery was an ugly, dirty business but people of virtually every race, color, and creed engaged in it on every inhabited continent. And the people they enslaved were also of virtually every race, color, and creed.

A recently published book titled "Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters" by Robert Davis shows that a million Europeans were enslaved by North Africans between 1500 and 1800. Nor were they the only Europeans enslaved.

Europeans enslaved other Europeans for centuries before the drying up of that supply led them to turn to Africa as a source of slaves for the Western Hemisphere. Julius Caesar marched in triumph through Rome in a procession that included British slaves he had captured. There were white slaves still being sold in Egypt two decades after blacks were freed in the United States.

It was the same story in Asia, Africa, and among the Polynesians and the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. No race, country, or civilization had clean hands.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate