The University of Aberdeen has bravely conducted a ground-breaking review of its historical funding, in which it ascertained that the family of Mary Ann Baxter, the lady who donated the equivalent of £14.4 million by modern standards and indeed co-founded the university, made some of her money by selling a type of cheap linen used as clothing for slaves. This type of material was in widespread use as cheap clothing for the poor.
Wait! Correction! Do not be deceived. Mary Ann Baxter’s family didn’t make their money by having direct links to the slave trade; they were even vociferous opponents to slavery, neither trading nor owning slaves themselves. They had, according to the report, “indirectly” benefitted from slavery, through the sale of Osnaburgs which later down the line of commerce, were worn by slaves. As a result, as is of course to be expected, the university has apologised and promised to decolonise the curriculum, whilst agreeing to “take action” in response. The report concluded that slavery was “one of the foundations of Mary Ann Baxter and her family’s fortune.” Such histories, according to the university’s vice-chancellor, “have deep legacies and impact contemporary realities on campus and in wider society.”
Congratulations to the University of Dundee for being so brave, and for speaking out against this ghastly injustice. One would like to think that they are now going to shut-up-shop, never enroll another student again as a result of the devilish legacy that haunts the campuses’ corridors and tuck shop. They should go so far as to blow it up and, as the Romans did to the ancient city of Carthage, sew salt into the remnants of the once respectable institution. If they were so committed to expunging any linked to slavery, this is the action they would undertake.
But, of course, there is a caveat. That of the words “indirect link” to slavery. I wonder whether anyone conducting the investigation has any direct link to slavery in today’s world. Do any of them have mobile phones, tablets, or computers? Did they conduct their investigation with any of the technologies thereof? Do they wear clothes imported from India or Thailand?
According to Patricia Carrier, programme manager at the Modern Slavery Registry, “we know that most global companies will have it somewhere in their supply chains, very far down where they don’t have much visibility or leverage.” Would those courageous investigators, sitting in their beautiful 19th-century offices in Aberdeen, be so sure that they themselves have not, in any way, shape or form, benefited somehow from slavery?
If they can be certain they haven’t they may stroke their superciliousness proudly, knowing that they are angelic people – a rare breed of perfection that I never knew existed on this planet hitherto. But of course, they are not. They would have undoubtedly benefited, similarly to Mary Ann Baxter, indirectly from the slave trade. Yet, unlike Mrs Baxter, they have done nothing to combat the slave trade that still exists in 2023. Instead, they prefer to jump on the bandwagon of historical victimhood for crimes committed more than two centuries ago. How brave they are!
Do they know that there are more slaves in the world now than there were at the height of the colonial age? There are roughly 50 million people slaves in 2023. Shall we conduct our own investigation into whether they have benefitted from the plight and torture of those unfortunate people? It wouldn’t even be difficult. But we know what the answer would be within a matter of moments.
Such attention-seeking and pandering to the lowest form of intelligence is becoming very old, very quickly and is unbecoming of a university that claims integrity and academic rigour. Of course, this hypocrisy is something that just won’t go away – despite how hard people reject and criticise it.
The aim is to ensure people think twice before going to Aberdeen or cutting its funding, for it doesn’t require financial support. The fact that it has the time and resources to conduct such investigations demonstrates an excess of funding. Just moments after having its budget slashed will the university come to its senses. Universities in 2023 are only interested in their finances. It makes perfect sense to hit them where it shall hurt.
Sorry…bit confused…Aberdeen or Dundee?