Iral Jabari Talma offers his views on reparations for the Trans-Atlantic trade in Barbados’ Advocate.
The issue of reparations, especially as it relates to the victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, has always been considered by many of our Caribbean people as an irrelevant and outdated request which should be shelved. However, the brutal capture and trafficking of human capital during the 17th -19th centuries between the continents of Africa, Europe and the Americas/Caribbean, have been considered as being one of the most disgraceful periods in the history of world civilisation.
The genocide meted out to the indigenous inhabitants of this Caribbean region at that time should also be mentioned here since this episode of our past is usually dismissed and forgotten.
Recently at the United Nations – Durban 3 – conference held in New York, many of us were pleasantly surprised to hear some of the region’s political leaders articulate with some conviction on the subject of reparations. Not surprisingly, some of them have met with the usual reactionary critique coming from our uninformed and colonially oriented populace.
Throughout the history of mankind, reconciliation and compensation have always been the preferred humane approach following atrocities carried out by nations, tribes or countries on each other.
In 1952, Germany repaid $822 million to the Jewish Holocaust survivors; in 1971, the USA relinquished thousands of acres of land in Alaska that had been inappropriately claimed from the native population. However, we should note that at the abolition of slavery, it was the previous owners of the enslaved Africans i.e. plantation owners, who were compensated for their loss of human capital and labour. In Haiti, the government of the newly formed Republic headed by the undisputed hero of the Revolution, Toussaint L’Ouverture, was forced through state extortion by the French, to compensate them for their loss of their previous African labour force.
Since those dismal days of our ancestors’ existence, their descendants have never been adequately compensated and the mental and psychological damage are yet to be healed. As some historians would declare, ‘our ancestors lost their names, their deities, their languages and their culture’ as they were used to build a new frontier in the west for Europe and the recently created nation of America.
In conclusion, we should be aware that the debate surrounding reparations is not simply one of ‘dollars and cents’, but spans a wide area related to our social, cultural, religious and educational systems that have been handed down to us over the years. The debate encompasses the challenges facing us with respect to poverty eradication, agriculture and food security, restitution of art objects and historical artefacts as well as educational reform which would commence a welcomed era of self-repair thus alleviating centuries of marginalisation, social exclusion, poverty and under-development which are still most prevalent in Africa and its diaspora. There would ultimately be no need to possess a sentiment of embarrassment or shame when discussing or reflecting on our ancestors’ woeful experiences or the issue of reparations.
For the original report and video go to http://www.barbadosadvocate.com/newsitem.asp?more=letters&NewsID=20480