Before I embark on my subject matter, permit me to pay my respects to former national footballer Gideon “Ragga” Horne who will be buried today, since I am unable to be present in person at the funeral.
“Ragga” was a larger-than-life character who played his football in an era which many still consider as the Golden Age of Vincentian football. That he could mix it up with the best of them and serve national football on and off the field, says a lot about his contribution. Off the field he never backed down from an argument and a good heckle.
It is a pity that our national records are not in order to allow the younger generation to gain an appreciation of those who laid the foundation for our foray in international competitions of today. Nuff respect, my brother!
Not sufficient understanding of Reparations
For years now, I have been fond of saying that if the enemies of our people want to create trouble for us, they would not only accede to the demands for just reparation for slavery, colonialism and genocide, but also agree to a hefty financial compensation to go along with it. This may sound strange coming from a staunch believer of the reparation cause but there are objective factors which influence my opinion.
First and foremost there is the lack of unity among us in giving wholehearted support to the cause. There are still too many among us, especially among the descendants of those who suffered so horribly under slavery. No doubt part of the problem lies in the lack of understanding of many of us about the dehumanization brought about by slavery and ignorance of our history. There are still many who harbour the view that while slavery was unacceptable, colonial rule was necessary to “Christianize” and “civilize” both the Africans brutally uprooted from their societies and the indigenous people whose way of life was brutally disrupted by the imposition of colonial rule.
The constant drilling in us of racist views and concepts of development, coupled with the still widespread ignorance about African and indigenous history, have left us with what is referred to as a “Eurocentric” view of the world. True, the more backward among us are not as bold to espouse their backward views as in the past but they still exist, in our educational system and still-to-be-decolonized institutions, and they help to shape the dominant views in the society.
It has left us with a lack of confidence in ourselves and little faith in our ability to chart a course of development relevant to our needs. So, we accept the argument that we should not “blame the past” and should let bygones be bygones. The tragedy is that the “bygones” have not gone. Just as they continue to contribute to the enrichment of the descendants of the slave masters, and slave mistresses, conversely those deeds and views contribute to what the late Professor Gordon Beckford termed as our “persistent poverty”, both material poverty, and poverty of the mind.
In spite of the justness of our claims for Reparations having been accepted by governments and many international institutions, there continues to be stubborn resistance to the very concept. All kinds of machinations are being employed to undermine the claim – partial apology from elements of the church, state and inheritors of the ill-gotten loot from slavery, colonialism and indigenous genocide. But there is a stubborn refusal to genuinely engage, face up to the evils of the past and not only to agree on compensation but more importantly, to re-order power and economic relations such that they redress the evils of the past.
To a large extent, the ambivalence and lack of firm commitments of many of our governments and institutions of power and influence help to buttress the stubbornness on the part of those who have inherited the levers of colonial power.
While we profess to all be in the Reparations Brigade, our actions belie our words. It is like those who loudly proclaim their Christian faith but on a day-to-day basis, their actions do not match their supposed commitment to the teachings and practice of Christian principles.
All of these add up to real obstacles to the significant advancement of our just claims for reparation. It helps to weaken the faith of many of those who consider the claim to be worthy but seem not to see how or when it can be achieved. But there is more to it, much more, as we shall see next week.
CONGRATULATIONS to Prime Minister Gonsalves on the 29th anniversary of his election to Parliament. It has made a difference.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.