Tag Archives: slavery reparations

Slavery Reparations – A Caribbean or Global African Claim? A crucial question

Indeed, there is a fundamental problem with the recent CARICOM reparations initiative. Basically, that problem is that it is a Caribbean initiative, based on the conceptualization of a “Caribbean” reparations claim. But the claim for transatlantic slavery reparations is not a Caribbean claim, it is a global African entitlement to reparations, and intrinsically so.
It was when I read a few days ago in an article that PM Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who spearheads the recent CARICOM moves and has no apparent African blood, being the descendant of indentured Portuguese servants, laughed off the suggestion that his ethnic background is relevant by stating that “I am a Caribbean man” , that I realized that this is indeed the main hitch with the current CARICOM reparations initiative.
Descendants of German or Portuguese indentured laborers, not even the Indian indentured laborers who were brought to the Caribbean by the colonial administration after the abolition of slavery, cannot claim reparations for transatlantic slavery if they have no African blood in them. These populations of the Caribbean may be able to claim reparations from European colonizers as well, but that will be a different, though of course connected, claim with a distinct legal basis. When I say connected, I mean that it was transatlantic slavery, the labor stolen from the genocidal enslavement of Africans illegally perpetrated for over more than 400 years, that allowed European states such as Britain to colonize and impoverish other nations, such as India, and to then carry off these nations’ distressed citizens as indentured laborers to work for them at low costs.
But for reparations to be effective, they have to be structural, strategic and scientific. By this I mean that they have to be structural, strategic and scientific from a historical and cause-and-effect perspective. Those later, consequential colonizations and even the poverty that parts of European peoples suffered whose nations had lost ground in the inter-european competition over colonial wealth, such as Portuguese peasants, were direct consequences of the crime of transatlantic slavery perpetrated on Africa and Africans on the continent and in the lands they had been deported to.

It is thus crucial to grasp that it is not Caribbean societies and states as such that have a claim to transatlantic slavery reparations – though they will undoubtedly profit in their entirety from comprehensive global African reparations. The structural and most ferocious violence against the African by Europeans is what Caribbean societies were founded upon. Thus, without reparations and healing directed specifically at the African, no healing can come for Caribbean societies. Global African reparations are the heartpiece of healing for Caribbean societies. And in this, one thing is as sure as the sun rising in the morning; the descendants of Europeans in the Caribbean have no claim whatsoever to transatlantic slavery reparations. Thus, the above mentioned statement of Gonsalves of him being “a Caribbean man” in reponse to criticism of his putting himself in front of this CARICOM reparations initiative, would be ridiculous if not so dangerous. Persons whose families have been in the Caribbean for centuries and who are still have a distinctively European appearance, have no claim to transatlantic slavery reparations. Even if PM Ralph Gonsalves ancestors were not enslavers, but Portuguese indentured servants, one is still left to wonder how they managed to keep so pale-skinned if they did not adhere to the same European white supremacist philosophy as the European enslavers and maintained a conscious effort to keep their blood “pure” from African contamination. It is clear that Gonsalves has no claim to transatlantic slavery reparations. He could and should support the African population in his country in the global African reparations claim, but there is no base on which he can speak of those having a rightful claim to slavery reparations as “we”.

It needs to be highlighted again that nothing of what has been stated so far in this article does imply of course that members of other nations would have no rights to reparations by the European aggressors. This is most true for the indigenous populations of what is now called the Caribbean and South America. But these were, for the most part, wiped out by the European aggression. And where they survived, they mixed with the Africans. These people of course have a sound legal claim to reparations today, based on the crimes both against their indigenous American and African ancestors and the continuing aggressions against indigenous and African people globally by the European colonizers and neo-colonialists.

In fact, and this is most important for people to realize, if we look at international law and what it provides as reparations for transatlantic slavery, it becomes clear to that if the claim is kept where it is – that is global African reparations- and brought to justice, global healing will automatically come out of it. Whereas if this most important claim is opened up to include Caribbean societies “as such” and thus watered down to development schemes and funds, no substantial healing can and will ever come out of it; not for Caribbean, nor African, nor global society. Yes, Caribbean nations need healing, but the violence that was and still is perpetrated against the African part of the Caribbean was so fundamental to the coming into existence of Caribbean societies that the healing also has the be directed specifically at Africans. And not only Africans in the Caribbean, but Africans globally and especially also on the African continent.

Most importantly, transatlantic slavery reparations are not about “developmental funds”, such as voiced as the desirable outcome of the CARICOM initiative by a member of the St. Vincent reparations committee. Thus, even if such a developmental fund would be established “mutually agreed upon with the British” , such a move could never “bring closure” to that period of history until full and comprehesive global African reparations for the crime of transatlantic slavery, perpetrated against Africa and her people globally are realized.
Baldwin Spencer, PM of Antigua and Bermuda, further confirmed concerns that it is indeed the intention of CARICOM leaders to sell out the reparations claim when he said that “Antigua and Barbuda also called on those very states to back up their apologies with new commitments to the economic development of the nations that have suffered from this human tragedy” . Ralph Gonsalves had already insisted earlier that he “does not want to fall out with Britain” . Thus, all evidence suggests that this CARICOM initiative might indeed be nothing short off a political sell-out of the comprehensive reparations claim, such as due by international law and that if realized would bring about a global balance and new global order, for some quick cash that Caribbean politicians are in urgent need of.

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Lampedusa – Genocide Made in EU

A few days ago, a ship sank before the Italian island of Lampedusa. 309 Africans who had been trying to reach into Europe have since been taken out of the sea dead. A fisherman who rescued 49 people with his boat accuses the Italian coast guard that they let the Africans drown, taking almost one hour to reach the sinking ship, only 500m away from the coast. Tragically, this is just one incident of many. Italian and Spanish coast guards have actually been reported to not only unlawfully refuse to assist boats with African migrants caught in distress at sea, but to actually have attacked some in order to force them to back off from the European coast. And these boats sank. Even if not officially declared so, that is EU policy; the borders have to be protected.
And this is genocide. Yes, this EU policy fulfills the legal requirement of genocide. Africans are brought to death for the fact that they are Africans. I remind readers that Articles 2 of the Genocide Convention’s defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
a) Killing members of the group;
b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part (…)”.
The policy of Italy and the EU, letting ships of Africans sink and attacking them, causing the death of thousands of Africans in the Mediterranean Sea, clearly fulfills this legal definition since it is directed against Africans because they are Africans. So normally the European leaders, politicans and navy commanders who are behind this should be persons of interest to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Oh, but then I forget that the ICC only deals with the persecution of African leaders, please forgive me .
This ship sank and 309 more Africans died in the Italian sea just a few days after CARICOM leaders launched their initiative for reparations for slavery. Now, what does the ship tragedy have to with with slavery reparations? Everything. European states have been perpetrating a genocide against African people for more then 500 years. They started with transatlantic slavery and on the destruction that they thereby brought upon Africa they built colonialism and violently maintain neo-colonialsm up to this day, on both the continent and the diaspora. And that destruction performed over such a long time on the African continent is responsible for the thousands and millions of African youths who suffer greatly materially every day with their families and are ready to risk their lives to reach Europe. And when they try to do this, the European Union and its member states will kill them or let them die while looking on! The EU has just, a few days after the drowning death of the 309 Africans, declared that it will start using drones along its Mediterranean borders in its fight against Africans.
While I greet the CARICOM reparations initiatve, I regret that it seems to be only concerned with monetary compensation for Caribbean countries, while what we need and what is legally due is COMPREHENSIVE AFRICAN REPARATIONS. And since these might well never be ‘given’, they might have to be ‘taken’.
Or what do you think?

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