Why are we asking our head of State for reparation?Tuesday, July 27, 2021
The discussions regarding reparation are ongoing in Jamaica, and the recent comments by the British ambassador only add salt to the wound.
Reparation has been a topical issue ever since the beginning of plantation slavery in the Caribbean. It started in small ways during slavery and continued immediately after Emancipation — all the way to modern days.
Jamaicans and other descendants of slaves throughout the Caribbean are correct in arguing that the British owe us a great debt for what they did to our ancestors, for the impact of the system of slavery on our country over the years, and for the impact of both slavery and post-slavery actions on our combined psyche.
Whether it's $10 billion or $15 billion that is being requested, chances are it should be more. Bear in mind that the British paid the slave owners a sum that would be valued at over US$20 billion today, immediately after slavery ended, as compensation for their loss. Nothing was paid to the enslaved.
The British captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655, and within about 20 to 30 years slavery in the country was well entrenched, with a slave trade sanctioned and propped up by the British Government and monarchy.
As a British colony (Spain recognised British claim to the island in 1670) the monarchy immediately became the head of the country. And Britain, known for its administrative prowess in faraway lands, spent the decades up to 1962 ruling Jamaica under one form of Government or another.
In 1962 the Union Jack was lowered and the Jamaican flag replaced it, and we became an independent country. Or so it was reported. Apart from the fact that financial independence continues to be a fleeting illusion, political independence is also not as sound as many of us thought. This may come as a surprise to many, but even to this day the British monarch remains the head of our country. No kidding!
I'm not sure why, but I know it's yet another indication of our continued slavery. There is no doubt in my mind that this is just a reflection of our continued self-esteem issues, weakened after years and years of brutality, oppression, and mental degradation. It is akin in some regards to what is known as the Stockholm syndrome, except that in our case it has been taken it to another level.
The renewed calls for reparation are important and, as stated before, the fact that the British owe us a great debt cannot be overstated. However, it strikes me as either disingenuous, misguided, or confusing that we continue with the British monarch as our head of State, even as we petition the same monarch for reparation. I would suggest that those opposed to reparation in Britain, and there are many (back in 2015, then British Prime Minister David Cameron told us to “move on”, and spoke eloquently of how proud he was that Britain “led the way” in the abolition of slavery!), must be laughing at us.
Jamaicans are proud and strong; let's show that in all we do. We should not go pleading to the British for reparation while maintaining the British monarch as our head of State.
In closing, my wish is that the energy being used for seeking reparation be switched to addressing the head of State issue. Let's take care of that first. Let us think back for a minute – Tacky, Nanny, Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Marcus Garvey — these great freedom fighters and heroes must be turning in their graves to know that in 2021 the Queen of England remains the head of State in Jamaica.
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