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Posts Tagged ‘Ed West’

I’ve written before about the fact that I am not begging for an apology from Britain and the other slave trading countries.  An apology should be something they offer sincerely, and not something that I should have to beg for.  That said, the disdain in which they continue to trample on the reality that is the legacy of the slave trade as if it is meaningless disgusts me.

This morning I woke up to news that Gordon Brown said “the time is now right for the UK government to apologise for the actions of previous governments.”  This was quoted from a letter in which he has agreed to apologise for the UK’s role in sending thousands children to former colonies.  According to the story on the BBC News website:

“Under the Child Migrants Programme – which ended just 40 years ago – poor children were sent to a “better life” in Australia, Canada and elsewhere. But many were abused and ended up in institutions or as labourers on farms.”

The  Child Migrants Programme dates back to 1618 “when a hundred children were sent from London to Richmond, Virginia which is now one of the United States of America. The final group arrived in Australia in 1967.”  (see here for history.)   I am pleased that Gordon Brown is apologising for this terrible state-sanctioned policy by a former UK government, as it was an abuse of power that has led to generations of physical, psychological and emotional abuse and damage. 

The apology for the Child Migrants Programme is long overdue, and has been the result of much campaigning from individuals and organisations such as the Child Migrants Trust

This then leads to an obvious question.  I am sure you can see it coming.  What about an apology for slavery, to the descendents of slavery?

I am not concerned with reparations in a financial settlement, but rather reparations of an emotional settlement.

The UKs involvement in the slave trade began at much the same time as the Child Migrants Programme in the early 1600s. (see here for history).  Abolition of slavery across the British Empire did not happen until August 1st 1834.  In many ways the Child Migrants Programme was the slavery it imposed on it’s own people (children) in parallel with the transatlantic trade, sending white children to live in the colonies to prop up the emerging ideology of white supremacy across the world.  It is good that the UK is now apologising for its turning its own children into slaves.  It is estimated that over 130,000 children were stolen and shipped away from their mothers and families over the 4 centuries.  So how about an apology for over 6 million African that the UK enslaved over the same period?

In recent days there have been questions in the UK press asking if West African leaders should apologise for their part in the slave trade.  I think that is a valid question as it is no use ignoring the fact Africans also exploited their own people, though the benefits of that trade were all manipulatingly weighed in the Europeans benefit, and the cruelty inflicted on the enslaved Africans in the middle passage and beyond were not known to the African people who captured their own and sold them to the white men.  But in the spirit of the emotional reparations and honesty needed to learn from slavery in any meaningful way, yes it is still a valid question about whether African leaders should apologise. 

This honesty however is not helped by the closed minded defensiveness that happens when the issue of an apology is discussed in the UK mainstream.  For example, see here for a mind-boggingly blinkered article in the Telegraph from “journalist” Ed West, in which he suggests that the descendents of enslaved Africans were done an ironic favour by being enslaved, as they are now doing “better” than their ancestors that still remain on the African continent.  He says this with no acknowledgment that if the Europeans had not exploited their presence on Africa in the first place in the 1600s through to today, under the various guises of Empire, slave trade, colonisation, commonwealth and free trade, then the continent would be doing just fine today by itself. 

The confusion, turmoil and brutality that Africa finds itself in today is due to the systematic exploitation from European countries over the past 500 years.  It is no wonder that some African countries are in such a mess today with its depressing news of eye watering cruelty that some Africans are now inflicting on themselves.  It is a continent that has not been allowed to know itself for the past 400 years.  In the mid to later 1900s when the European carved invented African countries were given “independence”, it was like telling a child that has never been allowed to go outside his/her house  or think for themselves, to leave home forever at the age of 18 and fend for themselves.

Europeans conquest for Empire has caused a blanket of confusion over the entire world that is still being felt to this day as witnessed in the political turmoils of countries such as Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Iran, South America, Pakistan, India and nearly every country in Africa.  But as Nneka sings in the post below, simply blaming European oppressors will get us nowhere.  We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, tell them to go f*** themselves and get on with our own lives.  That is easier said than done if you are a five year old dying of Aids in Malawi, but African leaders need to step up and do the right thing.  So far they have not, and many have only depressingly served in their own interests.  Though they have had good teachers.  If the recent expenses controversy in UK government had happened in any African country you can imagine the headlines.  Many African leaders today are leading countries based on antiquated European laws, laws that have long since been revised in their ‘mother countries’, (see this BBC article from Zambia as an example.)

If there is anything that many African leaders can do today, that they can learn from this present UK government, it would be to apologise to their people for their own failings and for the corruption and exploitation of past regimes.  African leaders need to move forward and do the right thing in the spirit of emotional and honest reparations.  Though for that to have any effect, African people ourselves, on the continent and in the diaspora, need to want to move forward in an honest way.  A body needs to want to heal, in order for wounds to actually begin healing.  No amount of bandaids or kind words will help.

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