The need for Reparations has been debated over the past decade with some degree of conviction and common sense but a limited amount of success. This discussion is taking place in the Caribbean, UK and in the USA among people of African origin but seems to have a strong emphasis on financial redress without considering any alternative or complimentary approaches.
Worryingly, Caribbean governments may not achieve their objectives without a change to their approach. This must include not only an argument for Reparations at governmental level but also a fundamental change to the education system to see the need for Reparations taught at grass roots levels in schools and universities in the Caribbean so that our young people, who are our future, recognise and accept the need for Reparations and will continue to drive it forward rather than seeing it as fanciful, academic and somewhat unachievable.
In my view a two pronged approach to Reparations is required:
- The Financial Reparations approach -the ‘Conventional’ approach.
- The Personal Reparations approach.
The Conventional Approach
Some Caribbean countries have taken this issue very seriously and in 2013 established the Caribbean Reparations Commissions (CRC) with the mandate to make a legal and moral case for reparatory justice. The Commission inaugural conference was hosted by St. Vincent & the Grenadines government under the guidance of the Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves with Sir Hilary Beckles vice chair of the University of the West Indies was appointed as chairman of the Caricom Reparations Commission.
A document was prepared by the CRC, which proposed the delivery of a mandate within the formulation of the Caricom Reparations Justice Program [CRJP]. The CRC asserts that victims and descendants have a legal right to reparatory justice, and those who committed these crimes, and who have been enriched by the proceeds of these crimes, have a reparatory case to answer.
A 10 point plan was adapted by the (CRC) as the binding principles (See below).
The CRJP recognises the special role and status of European governments in this regard; they are the legal bodies that instituted the framework for developing and sustaining these crimes.
These governments, furthermore, served as the primary agencies through which slave based enrichment took place, and as national custodians of criminally accumulated wealth.
The Caribbean Reparations Commission (CRM) is now witnessing the fruits of its political and legal approach. The University of Glasgow in 2019 signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of the West Indies to make £20 million available to establish a facility to undertake reparatory oriented policy research into the legacies of slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean. ( source: Observer Sunday August 04 2019)
The context of the 10 point plan
The CRC is committed to the process of national and international reconciliation
The CRC operates within the context of persistent objection from European governments to this mandate
The CRC nonetheless is optimistic that the CRJP will gain acceptance as a necessary path to progress
The CRC sees the persistent racial victimisation of the descendants of slavery and genocide as the root cause of their suffering today
Martin Day law firm from London Leigh Day is advising the commission.
The 10 Point Plan
- 1 A FULL FORMAL APOLOGY
- 2 REPATRIATION
- 3 INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
- CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS
- 5 PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS
- 6 ILLITERACY ERADICATION
- 7 AFRICAN KNOWLEDGE PROGRAM
- 8 PSYCHOLOGICAL REHABILITATION
- 9 TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
- 10 DEBT CANCELLATION
Some activists argue this approach is futile and is playing into hands of the European governments because it is too financially driven and perhaps a more direct approach is required through public protesting as demonstrated in the 1st August rally held in London and around the world annually.
This scepticism stems from an apparent inherent inferiority complex and an apparent position of subservience to European culture; we must remember other nations have successfully fought for and won Reparations, here are some examples:
- In 1990 the USA paid Japanese Americans $1.2 Billion or $20.000 each.
- In 1990 Austria paid $25.million to Holocaust survivors Jewish Claims on Austria. (Ref http://www.mtholyoke.edu).
Personal Reparations approach.
The Personal Reparations approach believes that financial benefits should not be at the forefront of Reparations but instead it should be about the self-realisation of Blacks seeking their own Reparations. Eminent American professor Dr. Anthony Browder argues we have to learn our history, and to learn to respect and love Africa before we can start seeking the financial rewards from our colonial leaders.
Reparations is not just about the money as it is perceived by the vast majority of people, it is also about repairing our thought processes in line with an all African orientation. “If you don’t know your past you don’t know your future” is a popular phrase use to describe one state of consciousness. This is true as it applies to the majority of Blacks in the West, many of whom are ashamed to be addressed as Africans, they still perceive Africa as a backward and underdeveloped and by doing so disassociate themselves from their African heritage.
The eminent African historian Robin Walker argues that as individuals we are progressing but as a collective group we are not making the progress required to gaining the respect deserved. This is because we have a low collective self-esteem. We do not practice the power of unity and collectivisation. Our mode to travel is to work in isolation of each other and undermine our fellow men in the pursuit of individual success. Robin Walker goes on to say “we are not leaving anything for our next generation to inherit either wealth or knowledge so how are they going to pass on anything their preceding generations”.
I agree with personal reparation as a precursor to the process of Reparations. However it is my view both approaches should work in tandem with each other; the personal and the financial.
It is my fervent hope that the vast majority of people of the Caribbean, South & Central America in the UK and the Diaspora would adopt a positive attitude if this historic quest and challenge is to succeed. The two approaches mentioned above should be adopted if Reparations are to be fought for and attained, one cannot precede without the other. The conciseness and self-hate must be address on a socio-cultural level, the image of Africa must be seen from a position of positivity and not of negativity.
Ref: Extracts from Dr Hilary Beckles House of Commons, Parliament of Great Britain, Committee room 14, Thursday, July 16, 2014,
Carmilo Gonzales presentation to CBC reparations panel. Published 30th Sep 2014.
Dr. Anthony Browder interviewed by Boyce Watkins streamed live on 16th Aug 2016. YouTube
The reasons Europeans Erased African from History. Robin Walker published 3rd Aug 2016 & The role history plays in the development of Black wealth published Sep 23rd 2017. YouTube