[Blackstudies-l] The west’s wealth is based on slavery. Reparations should be paid

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Thu Aug 31 10:01:34 EDT 2017


lisaparavisini posted: " A report by Kehindre Andrews for
London's Guardian. The west is built on racism; and not in some abstract or
merely historical way. Genocide of over 80% of the natives of the Americas
in the 15th and 16th centuries paved the way for the enslavement of "
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New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> The west’s wealth is
based on slavery. Reparations should be paid
<http://repeatingislands.com/2017/08/30/the-wests-wealth-is-based-on-slavery-reparations-should-be-paid/>
by
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 11.13.03 PM.png]

A report by Kehindre Andrews for London's *Guardian*.
<https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/28/slavery-reparations-west-wealth-equality-world-race#img-1>

The west is built on racism
<https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2017/jan/18/the-west-was-built-on-racism-its-time-we-faced-that-video>;
and not in some abstract or merely historical way. Genocide of over 80% of
the natives of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries paved the way
for the enslavement of millions of African people and the conquest of the
world by European powers. At one point Britain’s empire was so vast that it
covered two-thirds of the globe, so large that the sun never set on the
dominion. The scientific, political and industrial revolutions the British
school system is so proud to proclaim, were only possible because of the
blood, toil and bounty exploited from the “darker nations
<http://thenewpress.com/books/darker-nations>” from across the globe.
Colonialism left Africa, Asia and the Caribbean underdeveloped, as the
regions were used to develop the west while holding back progress in what
we now call the global south.

Any discussion of progress in racial equality in Britain or the rest of the
world has to acknowledge the damage that the west has inflicted on the
former colonies and their descendants. Malcolm X explained
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiSiHRNQlQo.com/watch?v=XiSiHRNQlQo> that
“if you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches,
that’s not progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress.
The progress comes from healing the wound that the blow made”. Instead of
attempting to fix the damage, we are completely unable to progress on
issues of equality because countries such as Britain “won’t even admit the
knife is there”.

It is the height of delusion to think that the impact of slavery ended with
emancipation, or that empire was absolved by the charade of independence
being bestowed on the former colonies. Descendants of enslaved Africans in
the west find themselves subject to steep racial inequalities in every area
of social life
<https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/08/50-anniversary-race-relations-act-uk-prejudice-racism>
and
are more likely to be killed by the state, as evidenced by the
eruption of Black
Lives Matter
<https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/24/angry-protesters-challenge-police-over-death-of-rashan-charles>movements
across the globe. This year marks 70 years since the partition of India
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/14/everything-changed-readers-stories-of-india-partition>
and
the region is still dealing with the consequences of British rule. The
underdevelopment of the African continent continues with corrupt trade
policies and the domination of the economy from the outside. One in 12
children dies in sub-Saharan Africa
<http://www.sos-usa.org/our-impact/childrens-statistics/africa> before
their fifth birthday, in large part because the continent continues to be
crippled by western “development”.

Make no mistake, the knife is still planted firmly in our backs and it is
time we not only removed it, but healed the wound. The only way to do this
is for reparations to be paid to wipe out the unmistakable debt the west
owes.

Reparations have been routinely dismissed by British leaders, including
David Cameron who told Jamaica that it was best to “move on
<https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/01/britain-slavery-myths-david-cameron-jamaica>”
rather than expect so much as an apology. But as dismissive as Cameron was,
there are plenty of precedents for the repayment of historical and economic
debts.

Reparations were paid out by the British government after the abolition of
slavery – albeit to the slave owners. So great was the loss of wealth from
the exploitation of human flesh that the equivalent of £2bn was paid, which
has now been tracked by researchers at UCL
<https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/27/britain-debt-slavery-made-public>.
In 1804, Haitians had the audacity to carry out the only ever successful
slave rebellion and declared independence from France. One of their rewards
was being forced to pay 90m French francs, from 1825, with the final
payment only being made in 1947. Slavery was clearly a lucrative endeavour
and one for which those who produced the wealth have never received any
compensation.

It is not just governments that owe a debt; some of the biggest
institutions and corporations built their wealth on slavery. Lloyds of
London is one of Britain’s most successful companies and its roots lie in
insuring the merchant trade in the 17th century. The fact that this was the
slave trade has already led to civil action being taken by African
Americans in New York
<https://www.theguardian.com/money/2004/mar/28/insurance.usnews>. The
church, many of the biggest banks, much of the ironworks industry and port
cities gorged themselves on the profits from human flesh.

It is clear that it would be just to pay reparations, and it is also
possible to calculate the amount that Britain and other nations owe. A lot
of work has been done in the United States to determine the damages owed to
African Americans. The figure owed comes to far more than the “forty acres
and a mule
<http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/the-truth-behind-40-acres-and-a-mule/>”
that were promised to some African Americans who fought in the civil war.
The latest calculations from researchers estimates that for unpaid labour,
taking into account interest and inflation, African Americans are owed
anywhere between $5.9tn and $14.2tn
<http://www.newsweek.com/slavery-reparations-could-cost-14-trillion-according-new-calculation-364141>
.

It would not be prohibitively complicated to work out the debts owed by the
western powers, or the companies that enriched themselves off exploitation.
The obviousness of the issue is such that a federation of Caribbean
countries (Caricom) is now demanding reparations
<http://caricomreparations.org/caricom/caricoms-10-point-reparation-plan/>,
as is the Movement for Black Lives <https://policy.m4bl.org/reparations/> in
America and Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe <http://parcoe.com/>
.

In many ways the calls for reparatory justice do not take go far enough.
Caricom includes a demand to cancel third world debt, and the Movement for
Black Lives for free tuition for African Americans. Both of these are
examples of removing the knife from our backs, rather than healing the
wound. Third world debt was an unjust mechanism for maintaining colonial
economic control and; allowing free access to a deeply problematic school
system will not eradicate the impacts of centuries of oppression. In order
to have racial justice we need to hit the reset button and have the west
account for the wealth stolen and devastation caused. Nothing short of a
massive transfer of wealth from the developed to the underdeveloped world,
and to the descendants of slavery and colonialism in the west, can heal the
deep wounds inflicted.

Real reparatory justice would allow the developing world to build strong
economies that could eradicate global poverty

We would need to perfect the mechanism for delivering this wealth transfer.
Many governments in the developing world have as little interest in their
native populations as the colonial administrations did, and sharing the
money between individuals is the surest way to ensure that none of the
issues are solved. But real reparatory justice would allow the developing
world to build strong, sustainable economies that could eradicate global
poverty. No one would need to live on less than a dollar a day and children
would not die by the second. Racial equality at home would heal divisions
between communities and absolve politicians from more handwringing.

There’s even something in it for the “little Englanders”. People are not
risking their family’s lives crossing deserts and the Mediterranean on
makeshift boats because they crave the British way of life. Migration to
this bleary island would turn to a trickle if people could make a decent
life in their homelands.

Of course there would be stark economic consequences for repaying this
mountain of debt and no longer exploiting the developing world. But it is
time we admitted that society currently works to benefit the few, and a
rethink of how wealth is distributed more generally is long overdue. A
factory reset of the political and economic consensus, in the form of
reparations, would lead to a radically different and potentially fairer
world for all.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
August 30, 2017 at 11:21 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: http://wp.me/psnTa-xbK

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