Wednesday, December 21, 2016
New York Life, Georgetown University, Volkswagen are but three of several institutions grappling with their history. New York Life revealed that it wrote insurance policies on slaves as property. Georgetown learned that its founding fathers had slaves that they sold to keep the young college afloat. Volkswagen dealt with the use of slave labor in its factories during World War II. Each instance is a public relations challenge. How are the institutions going to handle it? How will they atone today for deeds of long ago. There is no easy answer. Whatever one does is hardly enough for the descendants of those enslaved. All three have taken the first step and researched the past to reveal the truth. It is not clear in every instance what the second step should be. Georgetown has initiated several programs. It is unclear what New York Life might do. Volkswagen seems content with a thorough research and making findings public. There are no rules or protocols. Hence, each institution can respond in its own way. Whatever they elect to do, the past is present in PR programming.