David Cameron’s recent visit to Jamaica raised the emotive topic of slavery reparations to levels I have never seen before.
For many of us – whose ancestors went throught slavery and British colonial rule until 1962 – reparations is long overdue and must not be allowed to be written off due to lapse of time.
Cameron and other anti-reparation advocates – of all colours – say that Jamaica and the other affected nations that are demanding reparations need to move on. That is the ignorants’ excuse of not facing up to a wrong that lasted for over 3 centuries.
It was uneasy seeing a British Prime Minister last week stand up in a Jamaican parliament and say move on without any reaction or murmur from his audience. Could a German Chancellor stand in the Knesset – today or 50 years from now – and say ‘move on from the Nazi era’ to Israeli MPs?
The fact Great Britain did not give up their stranglehold on Jamaica and other Caribbean nations until the 1960s tells you how much of a negative control they still had after slavery was said to abolished in 1833. What followed after the abolishment of slavery could be described in some parts as forerunners for apartheid or john crowism in other regions.
Those who fought – during the early post slavery era – openly for a better life for black and creole people in Jamaica were ostracised, killed or classified as lunatics.
Paul Bogle was one such figure who fought for better conditions for black Jamaican. His reward was to be killed along with hundreds of others along with other in 1865. One of the rulings passed following Bogle’s death was that all of his relatives and descendants should be barred from education.
As we all know the former slave owners and their families were handsomely compensated following the slavery’s abolishment. In the aftermath the British brought in paid labour from Indian and China.
When Indian workers had finished their contracted labour many were given 10-12 acres of land each if they remained in Jamaica. Why weren’t the former slaves given land post 1830s?
I have always said one of the reasons why the Caribbean slavery has been under reported, misunderstood and ignored by the masses is because cameras were not invented then.
Some anti-reparation advocates ask why it took so long for us to press for reparations. My answer to that is the previous lack of education and information. The history taught in Jamaica post slavery was generally pro-British and anti-black, anti-African. The masses were kept in the dark over the truth behind slavery.
Black Jamaicans – with the limited schooling on offer – were brainwashed into accepting an education that ignored the horrors of slavery. 20th century education allowed Jamaicans to be hoodwinked and believe that for example a Rhodes Scholarship was a badge of honour. Even if the scholarship is named after a man (Cecil Rhodes) who had little regard for the black race.
Current generations have been able to retrieve the truth from numerous sources. We have read the documents from that era, we have read journals from slaves and their supporters.
- Why didn’t Jamaican political leaders – during the negotiations for independence with the British goverment – demand reparations?
- Were these leaders either short sighted or just looking out for their own interest? i.e. the trappings of power.
To those anti-reparations advocates who say time has long past….
This week Spain gave citizenship to 4300 people (mainly from Turkey, Morocco, Venezuela) with Sephardic Jewish roots whose ancestors were chased out of Spain on religious grounds in…. 1492.
In an ironic twist Moses Bravo – a Sephardic Jew with Iberian ancestry – owned hundreds of slaves during the 18th/19th century in an area of Jamaica he called Marley Mount…5 minutes from where this blog was written.