Reparations: No Case For Settlement


Why is it that whenever proponents of reparations seek to justify their calls for Europe to pay us black people, they always come with their one-sided arguments that make the Europeans look like evil and aggressive conquerors who forced slavery upon us innocent and defenseless Africans?

Take the article that was published in the Gleaner titled 'Reparations: the case for settlement'. If I hadn't known better, judging from the pronouncements of the proponents for reparations, I would have thought that our African ancestors must have been the dumbest people in the world.

The author, like so many of these 'reparationsists', makes that claim that Britain got rich on account of them 'exploiting' the Africans. However, even this was true, whose fault is that? As with any legitimate economic activity, economic resources are to be exploited for maximum benefit.

Slavery was a morally and legally acceptable institution that was accepted by both the Europeans and the Africans. The African kingdom of Benin willingly entered into a slave-supply agreement with Portugal in the late 15th century. As late as the 20th century, Selassie's Ethiopia was legally exporting slaves to the East. So let's not fool ourselves about the involvement of our own ancestors.

When we (that is the Europeans and Africans) were trading slaves, we (the Africans) WERE paid. According to one slave ship's manifest, we were paid: 'old hats, caps, knives, sheepskin gloves and cats'. Cats, you ask? To catch the rats, of course!

While the British used the proceeds of the slave trade to build a great empire, our ancestors were very happy with the trinkets that they got. We did not see any need for the technology transfers that could have made us strong too. A comfortable used belt in exchange for a few dozen African slaves was enough to make our ancestors happy!

The author of the article made the point that our ancestors were resisting the slave trade from the start. Of course, this is not true. If, on the other hand, he was trying to make the point that as some of our ancestors were resisting slavery that would have proved our opposition to it - that would be a very subjective argument.

An alternate argument could be made. Namely that as some of our ancestors was actively selling out their own for trinkets - that would prove that we accepted the slave trade. The glass can be seen as either half full or half empty.

Let's take the argument of the author that our ancestors were resisting the slave trade from the start. The slave trade (to the West) lasted for over three hundred years. If the Europeans managed to sustain that trade for that length of time, despite our resistance - what does that say of us Africans?

Is it that we were not smart enough to devise the type of military strategies that would have ensured our freedom? Or is it that the Europeans were just smarter than us and their plans were always better than ours? Maybe this is why all of our resistance was for naught, as the trade and slavery only ended largely on account of the Europeans putting an end to them.

Either way, if our ancestors were selling us out for trinkets because they didn't understand the value of the slaves that they were selling (unlike the British, who did) or we didn't like the trade but could not devise successful military strategies to stop the British - we don't come out in the end looking very smart - now do we?

I am still at a loss as to why Britain should pay us anything. When they went to Africa to buy slaves, our ancestors were paid, albeit, with trinkets, which, by the way, we accepted. That's the first payment. The Europeans owned these Caribbean islands that some of us live on, before we did. Beginning in the early 1960s, they granted us independence - giving us these islands. That's the second payment. Since then, they have kept our economies afloat with generous grants and financial assistance. That's the third payment.

Now we want reparations. This, if they paid, would make the fourth payment. How many times must they pay? Haven't we been paid enough already? And to make matters worse, we have squandered all of the payments we received! A resource rich island like Jamaica should never be poor, but yet we are! Those of us who are demanding reparations really have no shame indeed!

One last thing of interest: I noticed that the author of the article did his studies at a British university. It always amazes we how we are so good at biting the hand that feeds us! Many of the people who are demanding reparations are perfect examples of the positives of the very system that they condemn!

How likely would the case be, if there was no slave trade, for so many of these same proponents for reparations having had the benefit of British (or Western) education that so many of them crave for? Their own eagerness to reject African or Caribbean university education and fight for European or North American education instead is more than enough proof that even they believe that slavery had its pluses.

We need to stop being hypocritical about slavery and our own role in it and grow up. Stop the whining and let's take charge of our own destiny!

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