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Today began Mercer’s commemoration of admitting a student from Africa and two students from the Macon area who were not white. Ambassador Andrew Young was the keynote for the yearlong effort at Looking Back and Moving Forward. Rev. Young spoke about reconciliation as the only remedy. His use of South Africa’s response to the end of apartheid only underscored our nation’s failure to embrace and move forward after segregation. Though message about economic power as a leveler of injustice was important, it appears to me that in our institutional attempts to treat education as a commodity we have lost our ability to push back against the culture. When Mercer is great it is so because it provides space for pushing against cultural assumptions. We moved forward, even if slowly, on race. We may have to wait fifty more years to see whether we are that place of critical engagement with economic norms.

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