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A young man's thoughts on slavery

Published:Thursday | October 15, 2015 | 3:13 PM


I have been listening keenly to the views of Jamaicans concerning Prime Minister David Cameron's recent 'casual' comment about how Caribbean people should respond to the lingering effects of slavery. The debate brings swiftly to my mind, the CSEC History SBA I wrote last year. I am a young Jamaican, still in high school, and I am fully aware of the negative impact slavery continues to have on Caribbean people.

The history of the Caribbean, including Jamaica, is closely linked to the trading of people from the African continent for forced, unpaid plantation work. The Europeans, who had colonised islands in the West Indies, were driven by the need to gain economic wealth for themselves at almost any cost. Slavery, an old practice of undermining groups of individuals for the benefit of others, was sadly conceived to be the solution to the labour crisis that arose in large sugar plantations, as existed in Jamaica in the 18th century.

Essentially, slavery in the context of the 18th century sugar plantation, involved capturing mainly natives of African countries, tearing them from their way of life and from their families, and forcefully and cruelly making them work like mindless animals in harsh conditions. They were brought to lands thousands of miles from what they knew as home. There was no pay, little food with barely any nourishment, limited clothing and rest for the enslaved. Men, women and children were denied their human dignity, as a result of the selfish ambitions of Europeans who had access to capital.

Caribbean plantation slavery was really an unfortunate event in history that should never be allowed to reoccur, and should be remembered as a benchmark for upholding human dignity in all circumstances.

As a young man who has given some thought to Caribbean history, it is clear that the entire experience of the enslaved Africans was harrowing. Many historians and human rights activists rightly argue that the these traumatic experiences continue to have negative effects on the descendants of the African enslaved. We would be unwise to ignore the significant psychological effects that this unfortunate reality continues to have on Caribbean people.

Timothy Young