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'We need solidarity for reparations'

Published:Tuesday | May 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

FRESH OFF the heels of the international reparations conference held in New York and his keynote address at the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, one scholar is calling for solidarity among groups that are seeking reparations.

Dr Jermaine McCalpin, associate director at the Centre for Caribbean Thought, told The Gleaner that his work with the Armenian Genocide Study Group (AGSG) has highlighted the need for international cooperation on the issue of reparations.

"All historically victimised groups must come to a point of solidarity. When you have solidarity and the cause that you stand for is not just based on the group you belong to, it makes it more likely to be successful," he argued.

McCalpin told The Gleaner that there are points of convergence between the Armenian cause for reparations and that of children of African descent vis-à-vis slavery.

"The causes are both for historic injustices that are genocides. Genocide is not just the total decimation of a population, but the intent to wipe out a people based on nationality, religion, language, or some other cultural affinity, and so both slavery as well as the Armenian genocide share commonalities in that they have not been properly rectified," he said.


'a century of denial'


McCalpin pointed out, however, that the difference between the two is that slavery has been acknowledged as an evil with statements of regret offered by Britain, while the Turkish government has consistently denied the Armenian genocide, with pronouncements to that effect being made by the current prime minister of Turkey.

"It's a century of denial, so I think what we are seeing are the last breaths of denial. The world is moving towards clear acknowledgement that a genocide occurred ... as time progresses, Turkey will have to deal with the denial," McCalpin said.

For McCalpin, reparations should not focus on a dollar figure for compensation.

"We mustn't focus on the calculability, we must focus on the fact that some compensation needs to occur. When we talk about the calculability of reparations, I'm not so concerned whether its $10 trillion or $5 trillion, it is that some concrete steps need to be taken to compensate for the wrongs done," he said.

According to McCalpin, "What we should focus on is based on the economic loss, what blacks and Armenians are owed. Clearly, it is not as neat. History isn't neat. History is messy, the resolution of history requires us to go into the ugliness of our past, and I think reparations is often frowned upon because it challenges our collective conscience."