Reparations owed from slave horror
Published: Oct 23, 2013
I read The Tribune’s story on Saturday, October 12 captioned “Bahamas Suing U.K. Over Slavery” with some amusement and subsequently wrote a friend a note suggesting, inter alia, that, “Most Bahamians will not consider this important but that is simply because we have generally run away from the whole horrific experience of slavery and the apartheid state of the colony of The Bahamas for the more than a century following the abolition of the business of slavery in the British Empire.
“It is not so much a matter of getting the British to pay for the sins of previous generations of the British, but to get the present generation of Bahamians to honor those Bahamians who suffered, and for those who continue to suffer for the sins of the British during and after the African slave trade.”
The Tribune did say that this is not a new conversation, as they acknowledge that it has been going on in CARICOM for more than two years, including the time when Hubert Ingraham was prime minister and in attendee at CARICOM Heads of Government meetings, and Brent Symonette was foreign minister and an attendee at CARICOM meetings. I don’t believe that even The Tribune will suggest that they were so vacuous in their capacities that they were not aware of these conversations? Did they attempt to bring the conversation to the attention of Bahamians?
The headline of Saturday, October 12 was intentionally misleading to support the obvious attempt to besmirch the name of Fred Mitchell even at the price of insulting readers.
The October 12 story referred to a conference held during the middle of September in St. Vincent and the Grenadines – “the Regional Conference on Reparations for Native Genocide and Slavery”. Articles appeared during the past month in online newspapers and in physical papers from throughout the region. Radio and television carried stories. It took The Tribune a whole month to become aware of it? I don’t think so.
The story, which The Tribune suggested in its editorial in the October 15 edition, caused a furor prompting a large number of telephone calls to the paper, over the weekend no less, and even prompting a young lawyer, Andrew Allen, to “immediately put fingers to his computer” to write an opinion piece (one presumes that Allen told them that he was “immediately going to put fingers to his computer”). Allen suggested that we are to be involved in a “frankly embarrassing international brouhaha”.
There was a letter to the editor placed immediately below the editorial.
The tenor of all these was to suggest that the whole idea of a suit in support of reparations was idiotic.
Well, I have to join myself with those The Tribune has decided are idiotic, as I support the idea of the suit and, with kind permission, I will outline a few thoughts on my reasons why I support such an effort as well as to put some sober perspective to what this so called “trade” really was:
• I think far too many people are apologists for the beneficiaries of the crime of slavery.
• I consider the transatlantic slave trade to have been an unprovoked war waged against the people of West Africa by European states and their West African collaborators during the course of the period of the 16th through the 19th centuries.
• I equate the conditions which African captives of the European powers were made to endure in the transfer to colonies and states in the Americas during this period, and the conditions which they were required to exist in while in the Americas in bondage, to the worst of what captives who suffered in Nazi concentration camps during World War II had to endure. Yes, I know that some will suggest that some of these folks were allowed to “dress up and serve their masters in the house” in Nazi camps and in slave plantations, and this was “really not all that bad”. Well, some people dress up their dogs and allow them in their homes. Should I be pleased at the obvious comparison?
• The concentration camps in Germany before and during the war were “legal” detention facilities in Germany.
• The great human tragedy of the transatlantic slave trade played out as a “legal” activity well into the 19th century and continues to cause pain and suffering.
• Those who seem opposed to European states paying reparations for their crimes as active participants in the war against Africa and the taking of captives and enslaving them and their descendants had no difficulty in supporting the demand for, and receipt of, World War II related reparations from Japan, Italy, East Germany and West Germany, all recorded in the treaties made after the end of hostilities. Germany paid reparations to the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union mainly in the form of dismantled factories, forced labor and coal. The “intellectual reparations” taken by the United States and Britain alone (partly represented by scientists kidnapped “to keep them out of Soviet hands”) amounted to more than $100 billion in today’s dollars.
• There are bigots in The Bahamas, black or white, who attack the principle of a debt owed and never paid now being pursued. These same people would not dare suggest that ongoing Jewish efforts to secure reparations for Jewish losses during the German Nazi era are stale dated.
There is, obviously, a great deal more material which I could make a part of this consideration but I am not attempting to force education on anyone, as this is very much a personal choice. Individual research will serve a concerned citizen well.
The conversation should continue. No objective voice should be denied.
For what it is worth.
– Philip P. Smith