“A California task force studying reparations for Black Americans descended from slaves wants the state’s taxpayers to shell out US $360,000 for every affected individual…the payouts could cost California as much as US$640 billion”.
(Taken from RT News 04-03-23).
I have deliberately used this excerpt from a news story highlighting some of the challenges of financial compensation for descendants of African slaves and indigenous people. It relates to how I started this series two weeks ago as follows:
“I have been saying that if the enemies of our people want to create trouble for us, they would not only accede to demands for reparation…but also agree to a hefty financial compensation”.
Before I develop my contention any further, perhaps it would strengthen my point if I quote again from the same news story: “ The group has not yet decided whether the payments will go directly to qualified black Californians or be invested in education, healthcare, and home ownership for black communities in the state…and the exact qualifications to receive reparations, beyond US citizenship and an enslaved ancestor, remain undecided”.
I am sure you are beginning to work out where I am going with my contention. We live in a real world where selfishness is the order of the day. Can you imagine if we were asked whether compensation should go towards social programmes or be paid directly to individuals? How do you think we, not just Vincentians mind you, but all those entitled to such compensation, would vote? I leave the answer to you.
Choices like these leave the door wide open to all kinds of selfishness and opportunists. We already are beginning to see what such compensation plans can bring if there is no unity of purpose among those entitled to compensation. There is the proposed climate change fund for those countries and peoples who have been suffering as a result. Already countries, and organizations, are trying to put themselves in place to see if they could get as much as they could. And, in cycling there is a race called, “the devil take the hindmost”.
If such a fund is agreed upon, don’t be surprised if you start to hear how some countries suffered more than others and should therefore be allotted greater shares; how some organizations and institutions fought harder than others and hence should be rewarded in the payouts, and so on.
Then there is the total package argument, how much is enough as compensation? If we can’t agree there will be the arguments of who is selling out, who should decide and so on. Not just between individuals and institutions, even between governments themselves. Can you imagine the lobbying and kowtowing to those governments which are considered crucial to any agreement on a financial package? We could find ourselves in the marketplace once more.
Then there is the very dangerous and sinister attempts to sow division between the descendants of the African slaves and the indigenous people who, while not enslaved, suffered colonial genocide and robbery of their lands. There will be those who will attempt to prevent by all means a common position and unity of purpose between the indigenous people and the African descendants, using all sorts of divisive tactics. We have to be aware of this and be prepared to handle it.
Divisions among us will heighten, some disagreements perfectly justified, but not always handled properly. If we are not careful, we could virtually be offering ourselves for sale. That is why, long before we arrive at any compensation package, we have to find common ground on the fundamentals of our claim.
The establishment of the various reparation committees is certainly a step in the right direction but sometimes you get the impression that there is not enough genuine belief that we will succeed and hence the total commitment seems to be lacking. The Regional and National Committees cannot stand alone, they need “grounding” as the late Bro. Walter Rodney said, need legs to stand on in order to be able to walk.
The immediate need is for a robust educational programme starting with our children and the schools, from pre-school up. This needs special emphasis on parents to understand the significance of the claim, the justness of our cause so that in the home, and in the community, that educational thrust can be maintained and reinforced. The zeal which we take from our religious conviction, needs to be harnessed in the service of our Reparations cause. The conviction must be felt and experienced.
As we commemorate National Heroes Month, we must be aware that the war against Chatoyer and the Garifuna, the devilish plan to exterminate the Kalinago people were conceived and carried out in order to spread slavery over this fair land of ours. It was necessary to subdue the indigenous people in order to subjugate our fore parents, largely kidnapped in Africa, to inhuman slavery. Our cause is therefore one and the same.
When are we going to tell our children the truth? When are we going to plug our deficiencies in knowledge about slavery and colonialism so that we too can carry the reparations torch further? We need to be much more firm and resolute in our pursuit of our just claim.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.