Wed | Sep 22, 2021

Shun reparations hogwash

Published:Tuesday | May 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Michael Dingwall, Contributor

I read with interest the edited version of a speech made by Member of Parliament Paul Buchanan in support of Mike Henry's call for reparations that was published in The Observer on May 10. All I can say is that I hope these politicians like opening cans of worms!

It was interesting to note Mr Buchanan's claim that we are related to the ancient Egyptians and at the same time claiming that there is no statute on genocide. He makes the claim that the Egyptians built the great pyramids, which "have been the admiration and despair of the world for a hundred generations".

Well, if all of this is true, I don't think Mr Buchanan would mind if the Israelis, who consider themselves the descendants of the Hebrews, who were brutalised, murdered and enslaved by the ancient Egyptians in building those pyramids, start demanding reparations from us!

Also, Mr Buchanan damns slavery as a "ruptured history and culture". Yet, at the same time, he glorifies the ancient African civilisations of Ethiopia, Mali and Ghana. I still cannot understand why people like Mr Buchanan have a problem with the British Empire but are comfortable with those ancient African Empires - all of which were built on that damned "ruptured history and culture". Are we damned too?


Then Mr Buchanan quoted Walter Rodney, claiming in his magnum opus, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, that "Europe benefited from our past". Why must we keep putting our foot in it baffles me to this day!

History is very clear as to our own role in slavery. When the Europeans went to Africa for slaves, they didn't have to look very far. Slavery was an institution that was already well established. Indeed, many ancient African kingdoms, like Benin and others, freely signed slave-supply trade treaties with the Europeans. Nobody had to force them.

History is clear. The Europeans built empires out of slavery, while we, on the other hand, built poverty-stricken societies. How can anyone blame the Europeans for making the most out of an institution that was morally acceptable to all at the time?

Also, we need to be very careful when we condemn the Europeans for becoming wealthy from slavery. Both they and we, Africans, were presented with opportunities from what was a morally accepted institution. What then does our present deprived state say of us? Be careful of the can of worms!


Finally, Mr Buchanan, like several of his fellow MPs, continues to blame slavery for our present predicament. These people who continue to promote this nonsense don't seem to realise that they continue to make us black people look bad. Why? Assuming that we were placed at a disadvantage on account of slavery, who can we blame for not advancing for all these decades since, the Europeans or us?

Look at the South Koreans. They were brutalised and exploited by the imperial Japanese as recently as 70 years ago. Their country was destroyed twice in the recent past - in the 1940s and 1950s. Yet, look at them today. Theirs is a major economic and scientific power. If they can do it, what on earth is our problem? Is it that they are smarter than us?

Every time I hear these people demand reparations, I, as a black man, feel very inferior. Why? Because while others have overcome their challenges, we continue to demonstrate our own inferiority by being unable to overcome ours! Full time now for us to grow up!

Email feedback to and