Jamaica will be readying the call to demand reparations from Great Britain in a bold attempt to undo the colonial injustices of the past. A lawsuit will be filed against Great Britain due to the nation’s role in the transatlantic slave trade and slavery in the former colony.
“We are hoping for reparatory justice in all forms that one would expect if they are to really ensure that we get justice from injustices to repair the damages that our ancestors experienced,” Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s minister of sports, youth and culture, told Reuters.
Jamaica was seized from the Spanish by the English in 1655, remaining a British colony until its independence in 1962. Millions of Africans were forcibly imported and were forced to work on plantations tending to a variety of crops. Labouring in terrible conditions, whipped, raped and killed whilst their owners were amassing fortunes.
600,000 Africans were shipped from Africa to Jamaica, according to the National Library of Jamaica.
Under the Slavery Abolition act, 1833, the British government raised £20 million from taxpayers to pay out for the loss of slaves as business assets to the registered owners of the freed slaves. £10 million of the compensated money remained in British society.
Reuters reports Jamaican lawmaker Mike Henry, a member of Jamaica’s Labour Party, declared the price tag of reparations could be valued at $10.5 billion.
He continued: “I am asking for the same amount of money to be paid to the slaves that were paid to the slave owners,” he told Reuters.
The petition for reparations will be filed pending advice from the attorney general and several legal teams.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”It’s not the first time Jamaica has asked
In 2015 Sir Hilary Beckles author of “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide” and Chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, led calls for the former Prime minister David Cameron to start talks on making amends for slavery.
In an open letter in the Jamaican Observer, Sir Hilary wrote:
“We ask not for handouts or any such acts of indecent submission. We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation and move to contribute in a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal,
“The continuing suffering of our people, Sir, is as much your nation’s duty to alleviate as it is ours to resolve in steadfast acts of self-responsibility,”
David Cameron ruled out slavery reparations urging Caribbean countries to ‘move on from the painful legacy of slavery’.
Cameron himself originated from a family where they benefited from slavery. His wife Samantha also has slave-owning links. The dirt is on their hands. How many times do we have to be refused to understand we will not get reparations? We have the accept the things we can not change. Britain won’t change their stance on reparations.
Can we quantify our trauma?
The abuse that the Black Diaspora endured under slavery has a lasting impact on today’s generations. The ‘historical’ or ‘collective’ trauma affects entire communities simultaneously, seeing the colonial globalized African think and act differently.
Evidently, this trauma has been a gaping wound in the collective psyche of the Black African diaspora. The state perpetuated this trauma and downplays its effects and damage caused.
In turn, this has created a politics of stonewalling, refusing to accept traumatizes those trapping them in a psychic tomb. The recipient of the crimes do not grieve the loss whilst the perpetrator does not acknowledge the crime.
A plausible link between the lack of recognizing the atrocities of trauma, and the denial creates a racialized nationalised traumatic identity as the trauma presents itself at the level of the community, where the horrors enacted are kept in a collective psychic tomb, passed on in silence. In turn, this results in no real closure and the wound festers inside haunting the future. A recognition of trauma could make freedom opportune, but it must be a reciprocal process and recognized by the other and by one’s self. It is not reciprocal.
Philosopher Achille Mbembe once said:” To be black is to be stuck at the foot of a wall with no doors thinking nonetheless that everything will open up in the end”.
The continuing demands for reparations have fallen on ears who are not willing to listen.
For too long we have waited for others to open the door for reparations. It will not open. Whilst we can accept slavery debilitated our people psychologically, socially and economically, we know it will not be acknowledged. Perhaps I am a pessimist dressed up as a realist. We can not continue to rely on the ideas of reparations to fix the damage done by the British Empire.
Malcolm X once said: “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” It is time we moved on from the ask for reparations and continue to work together to create our own freedom, as no one holds our freedom, but ourselves. Neither can we wait for them to recognise their wrongdoing, we must seek to make it right, we are the authors of our own destiny and the captain of our ships, we were set to sink, but now we swim.