By Duke Staff
Last Thursday, Democrats and Republicans on the Hill met with the president to discuss and debate a new immigration bill. Evidently, the meeting turned sour, and our commander-in-chief said, shall we say, heated things about Africa and Haiti.
It would be pointless to reproduce here what our president actually said, mostly because there is still a dispute if the operative word that has ignited this controversy was actually spoken. More importantly, however, whatever was uttered behind closed doors is inconsequential. After the story broke, and the president had a chance to clue us in on his side, we all know what he meant.
And what he meant was to disparage an entire continent of people who struggle to this day in the fallout of colonial oppression.
These derisive, crass and pathetic comments hit close to home for us. Duquesne University, in living the Spiritan tradition, aims to walk among the marginalized and serve them. Our school works closely with various communities and undertakes service projects to lift the people and better their lives and where they live.
Take our Department of Theology, for example. According to its website, the department affiliates with four colleges on the continent, including Ghana, Kenya and two in Nigeria. These partnerships allow students in those countries to earn master’s degrees and contribute to the well-being of their nations.
Many of our Spiritans are from Africa, as well. They are undeniably a part of the Duquesne community, with 10 members of the Congregation identifying their origins with the continent. They go to mass with us, they teach our classes and they are integral to the spiritual richness of our campus.
Graduates from Duquesne are also dedicating their lives to living on that continent. For example, two graduates, John Bonaventure Kwofie and Gabriel Mendy, were named bishops of Ghana and Gambia, respectively.
Not to mention our Center for African Studies, which connects our campus with the continent through work such as with the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a program that helps raise and empower the next generation of leaders.
And there is so much more that the campus, students, faculty and Spiritans do that can’t fit here. Suffice it to say, it is hard to take the president’s comments as anything but personal. Duquesne’s Spiritan identity is nearly inseparable with our connections to Africa, and comments that demean the people living there insults our shared struggles and triumphs..