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Stop asking for slave trade compensation

By Vision Reporter

Added 5th April 2007 03:00 AM

BY JERIN VAN OVERLOOP

I wish to respond to Dr. Tajudeen column in The New Vision of Wednesday March 28 in which he demanded that Britain officially apologises for the slave trade. It is true that slavery was shameful and disgraceful but I beg to ask, how many things will we (the West) be f

Stop asking for slave trade compensation

BY JERIN VAN OVERLOOP

I wish to respond to Dr. Tajudeen column in The New Vision of Wednesday March 28 in which he demanded that Britain officially apologises for the slave trade. It is true that slavery was shameful and disgraceful but I beg to ask, how many things will we (the West) be f

BY JERIN VAN OVERLOOP

I wish to respond to Dr. Tajudeen column in The New Vision of Wednesday March 28 in which he demanded that Britain officially apologises for the slave trade. It is true that slavery was shameful and disgraceful but I beg to ask, how many things will we (the West) be forced to apologise for in our history? How far back should we go to apologise? What deserves apologies and what doesn’t? How do you determine to what degree a group of people has been wronged and if their wrongdoing is more important or worthy of an apology or settlement than another group? The more apologies and settlements levied by governments, the more likely it is that additional groups will come forward asking for apologies for historical events. For example should the U.S. apologise to the Native Americans who were systematically exterminated and subjugated by Europeans from the time of Columbus landing on the shores of the New World? Furthermore, is it just to blame historical events, isolated or not, for the current situation of certain groups of people today? Britain has benefited, yes, but she wasn’t the only European country as Tajudeen seems to insinuate. I do not agree that it is just the whites that are siphoning off Africa’s wealth, while Africans are being held up as the victims. They are equally guilty. Africans benefited from the slave trade and were accomplices in helping Europeans locate and capture slaves and take them to the ports. The slave trade existed in Africa, between Africans, long before the Europeans came up with the idea. While the nature of African slavery varied and may have been more flexible than the European system, trading of humans nonetheless existed between Africans. Slave trade, in all its historical forms, still exists in some African countries - most publicised in the media are West African cocoa producing countries, and the Sudan. If people are forced to work for zero money as it is happening in these countries, then what do you call that? Britain maybe guilty for having chosen to condemn slavery in Zanzibar and ignoring its existence in Brazil, Portugal, Belgian or Spain but this does not make it the biggest sinner. You can still go to the DRC and find people there, missing their right hand, old enough to remember what the Belgians did. They may not have been directly shipping slaves overseas but they still relied completely on slavery to plunder the Congo’s wealth. And I hardly know how you can compare slavery to financing your way overseas, or having the desire to leave Africa and wanting to find any means to get off the continent, as Tajudeen stated. North America or Europe are not paradise, and neither is Africa. You can feel just as shackled in Africa, in an economy where unemployment, corruption and disease are rampant, and you can’t see a future for yourself, as you can, after leaving Africa, working for minimum wage in North America, realising that your education suddenly doesn’t count for much and struggling to pay the bills. I think instead of putting all the blame on one nation, ignoring the complete facts and blaming the present situation on one event is not only wrong, but it is unfair to both parties because it prevents everyone from having an open and honest dialogue and from moving forward and finding solutions to the problem. Official apologies and compensation are not, literally and figuratively, a completely black and white issue.

The writer is an
environmentalist working in Calgary, Canada

Stop asking for slave trade compensation

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