Payback for slavery's terror
Omar Ryan, Guest columnist
Over the past few weeks, the matter of reparations for Caribbean slavery and native genocide has become very topical, and rightly so, because of the developments in CARICOM and the active media discussions carried out by ourown National Commission on Reparations (NCR).
Despite the NCR's efforts to educate our people about these historical injustices, the sufferings of their ancestors and the contemporary implications of past atrocities, the ignorance, self-denial, even self-hate are still apparent among our people trapped in colonial-style education and historical amnesia.
I was appalled by the view expressed in your Letter of the Day of August 9, 2013 titled 'Stop flogging reparations', in which the writer said advocates for reparations are wasting their time, and even quoted the Bible justifying slavery.
I want us not to forget that the enslavers and colonialists were armed with the Bible while they took away Africans and brought them to the Americas to be treated less than humans. I believe that the voices of the naysayers, the non-interest and apathy with regard to the issue of reparations are mental attitudes resulting from our people not being fully aware of what justice means.
There appears to be a willed ignorance that a great injustice was carried out against their own people.
The fact was that Africans were forcibly taken away from their continent, exploited and enslaved for almost four hundred years, and upon the ending of bondage, the enslavers were paid twenty million pounds for loss of 'property' (enslaved Africans), not land. Hitherto, no compensation has been paid to the victims.
It must be noted that Africans, from the outset, were against the forcible taking away of their people from the continent. One African, King Nzinga Mbemba, wrote to the king of Portugal in a letter dated October 18, 1526 outlining the ramifications of the kidnapping of Africans and his opposition to it.
However, the opposition of the Africans was no match for the military and naval power of the mighty Europeans.
Well over 100 claims for compensation were filed by members of the Church. One such example was the Rev Charles William Davy, who filed six claims for 661 enslaved Africans on properties in Trelawny and who received £12,641 in compensation).
Among the recipients were educators like the Rev Thomas Pierce Williams, principal of Wolmer's, 1813-14, who received £7,054 for 356 enslaved in the parish of Manchester.
They and others amassed wealth that set the catalyst for the economic prosperity we now see countries of especially Western Europe reaping.
It must be known that one Hermann J. Abs, a German Jew, helped to finance the Auschwitz concentration camp where thousands of Jews met their demise. As a Jew, he played a role in the terrible crime against fellow Jews, and it never stopped the Jews from getting reparations from the German State. And it was the offspring of the victims that were compensated, not the victims themselves.
So it must be understood that a crime was committed against Africans and native peoples of the Americas (Caribbean), and no compensation was paid.
Within a world where we hope to move forward as peaceful beings, reparations must be paid to the descendants of the victims who are living with the scars and ills transmitted through generations from slavery.
The NCR urges people to rid themselves of that mental slavery that continues to trap them in a cycle of ignorance, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Such attitudes as displayed in The Gleaner's Letter of the Day and the responses to it remind us that "Aluta continua!"