In another case of anti-Western grievance-mongering at the United Nations, the leaders of two Caribbean nations are calling for slave reparations from Western nations that profited from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Most Caribbean nations look to tourism and off-shore banking to grow their economies and create wealth. But a few are engaged in a fast-buck scheme: slave reparations which they say are owed to the descendants of African slaves.
Recently, the U.N. General Assembly heard from the prime ministers of two twin-island Caribbean nations: Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In separate speeches, the Caribbean leaders declared that reparations were needed to remedy the barbaric injustices of slavery that Western nations set loose upon the world – and whose legacies continue to this day, according to Caribbean news outlets.
“Antigua and Barbuda has long argued that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and racial violence against peoples of African descent have severely impaired our advancement as nations, communities and individuals across the economical, social and political spectra,” Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer told the General Assembly.
For his part, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said: “Racial discrimination was justified and became itself the justification for a brutal, exploitative and dehumanizing system of production that was perfected during the trans-Atlantic slave trade and ingrained over the course of colonial domination.”
“The structure of our modern world is still firmly rooted in a past of slavers and colonialist exploitation,” he added. “While we celebrate the noble heroism of the famous and the faceless who resisted racist colonial hegemony, we must continue to confront the legacy of this barbarism and continuing injustice.”
Their comments, during a Saturday session, were made one day after another case of grievance-mongering and grandstanding before the General Assembly: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ call for Palestinian statehood.
The reparations racket has been around for years. It has attracted a motley bunch – from jive-talking hustlers to erudite professors of academic disciplines like African-American history and post-colonial studies. But only in recent years have whole countries joined the reparations racket. Besides having large black populations, they share common traits: leftist leaders, ailing economies, and a host of anti-Western grievances propagated by leftist elites. Jamaica, a former British colony, also has sought to shake down Britain for slave reparations.
How should descendants of African slaves be compensated according to reparations advocates? Spencer called for formal apologies from former slave-trading Western nations; and then they must “back up their apologies with new commitments to the economic development of the nations that have suffered from this human tragedy.” The Caribbean region, to be sure, is already a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid, a fact the speakers failed to mention.
Neither men, moreover, mentioned an awkward detail: Their own African ancestors may have owned slaves and participated in the slave trade (though they never did as well at, of course, as Westerners who were not doing anything illegal at the time).
Ten years ago, the anti-Western reparations movement was energized by the United Nations’ racism conference in Durban, South Africa; that was the infamous UNESCO-sponsored event in 2001 that equated Zionism with racism. It also offered tacit support to the idea of slave reparations.
Regarding Durban, Spencer was full of pride, calling it “an innovative and action-oriented agenda to combat all forms of racism and racial discrimination.”
It’s a view shared by the United Nations. Just five days after Spencer and Gonsalves made their reparations pitches, it held a high-level meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action.
Spencer and Gonsalves are not the first Caribbean leaders to jump on the reparations bandwagon. Four years ago, Jamaica’s political leaders were angling to shake-down Britain for slave reparations.
The left-leaning People’s National Party was then in charge on the island of 2.7 million, a hotbed of leftist politics. Struggling to reverse years of economic decline, leftist political leaders and elites started beating the drum for the regional campaign to convince Britain to provide compensation for its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
“We owe reparations to ourselves and our ancestors,” Rupert Lewis, a lecturer in government at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, told a gathering of school children in Kingston, the capital. The occasion was part of activities associated with Jamaica’s commemoration of Britain’s 200-year-old Abolition of the Slave Trade Act adopted March 25, 1807. At the time, the case for reparations was being made to ordinary Jamaicans with lectures and the airing of the pro-reparation’s documentary film: “The Empire Pays Back.” The message to them: the legacy of slavery and British colonialism was indeed the source of the island’s troubles – not misguided leftist policies that guided Jamaica since it gained independence from Britain in 1962.
“In the medium term, the goal is to mobilize all those who have been working in the (reparations) field for a long time, and to sensitize those who have dismissed the work of the movement for lack of knowledge,” Jamaica’s minister of tourism, entertainment and culture, Aloun Assamba, told the Jamaica Observer.
Curiously, the Caribbean’s reparations hustlers only single out Western nations in their demands. They ignore the slavery that existed elsewhere in the world – the Middle East, Africa, and South America; and while they mourn Africans caught up in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, they shed no tears for the millions of Africans who disappeared (and continue to disappear) into the Muslim slave trade. Nor do they condemn slavery that persists in Africa today; or the human trafficking that’s a problem in many parts of the world, including Jamaica.
Slavery, in other words, doesn’t bother them nearly as much as all their frothing suggests. How come? Some are obviously racists. And all are leftists; for them reparations are the means by which they can achieve the Marxist redistribution of wealth they dream about.
In recent years, they’ve adopted a post-modern form of Marxism – what might be called “cultural Marxism.” In this view, the villains are no longer capitalists and bourgeoisie as is espoused in economic Marxism.
Now the villain is “white male privilege” – a privilege supposedly made possible by the head start that black African slaves gave to white Western nations. Indeed, as Cambridge University senior lecturer Richard Drayton wrote in an upbeat review of “The Empire Pays Back”: “Africa underpins a modern experience of [white] British privilege.” The documentary was produced by Jamaica-born producer Robert Beckford, a lecturer in African Diaspora Religions and Cultures at England’s University of Birmingham.
How should Britain’s monstrous historical theft and injustice be remedied? In a word: reparations – by redistributing wealth from whites to the ancestors of black African slaves – and ultimately, reparations advocates say this is all about healing. “These [reparations] proposals are not intended to be divisive or confrontational, but rather form part of a process to heal the wounds of the past,” explained Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Stafford Neil, during Durban’s racism conference.
And no matter that few if any whites are around anymore with any connection whatsoever to the slave trade hundreds of years ago; yet whites as a group are nevertheless cast as modern-day beneficiaries of slavery.
Ultimately, reparations advocates distort the realities of the ancient slave trade, according to Ohio State University Professor Robert Davis. “We cannot think of slavery as something that only white people did to black people,” says Davis, author of “Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). In his book, Davis documents that Muslim slavers off North Africa’s Barbary Coast enslaved one million or more white Europeans between 1530 and 1780 – a number greater than Africans enslaved during the same period.
Why is the enslavement of white Europeans ignored? Because it fails to echo the scholarship favored today – that history is all about European conquest and colonization, says Davis.
In this version of history, Britain and America get no credit for leading international efforts to end the profitable trans-Atlantic slave trade – even using their warships to stop it. Both countries are portrayed in the worst light possible; whatever they did, it was too little, too late.
Not surprisingly, reparations advocates who claim the West’s prosperity is founded upon slave labor overlook the obvious reasons for the West’s prosperity: Its political and economic life are organized around democracy, free-markets, and the rule of law.
Dedicated leftists won’t admit this; and this includes the Caribbean’s leftist rulers who ambivalently embrace free-markets and look for their inspiration to Cuba – a place where you won’t find any of the 2.6 million members of the Jamaican Diaspora living.
Besides slavery, Jamaica’s leftist elites obsess endlessly over British colonialism; but there’s a glaring irony with this grievance-mongering: Jamaica’s dramatic decline over the years – crime, gangs, political corruption – all occurred when black Jamaicans were running their country – not their former colonial masters. Jamaica’s problems, in other words, were all related to specific decision made by Jamaica’s politicians and elites.
Jamaica vs. the Bahamas
Jamaica’s blame-it-on-slavery argument becomes especially problematic when the country’s dysfunction is contrasted against the prosperity enjoyed by the Bahamas. A former British colony, the Bahamas also has a legacy of slavery. Yet it has no crippling debt, no history of serious political violence, and no out-of-control crime rate. It has one of the region’s highest per capita incomes: $19,000, nearly five times more than Jamaica’s. There’s no huge Bahamian Diaspora.
Why is the Bahamas a success? Because its political leaders and voters look forward – not backward; and they unashamedly look to America as an example. They have for the most part embraced business-friendly policies and a low-tax philosophy.
Four years ago, for instance, an interesting political phenomena occurred in the Bahamas. Its ruling left-leaning political party suffered a stunning election defeat, despite having overseen an expanding economy and unprecedented development boom. Interestingly, the main campaign issues were good management and honesty in government – not racial issues (such as which candidate had the darker skin color). It’s an example of the Bahamas’ good governance and civic culture – traits not as apparent in Jamaica and other Caribbean island-nations with similar histories of racism and colonialism.
In the Bahamas, interestingly, the bicentennial of the slave trade’s abolition got circumspect media coverage – and was consigned to the inside pages of the main newspapers. In Jamaica on the other hand, The Observer – a popular left-leaning daily owned by Sandal’s resort owner Gordon “Butch” Stewart – ran a chest-thumping front-page article in which Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller paid lip service to reparations – telling school children to honor their slave ancestors by respecting one another. “My request for honoring them is that for every child that is raped and is left to soak in the rapist’s semen and her own blood, you are perpetuating, Mr. Rapist, the action of the slave master.”
It’s hard to imagine political leaders in the Bahamas making such lurid comments to school children. Nor are Bahamian political leaders grandstanding before the U.N. General Assembly – demanding slave reparations based on a leftist post-modern view of history.
They’re too busy looking forward – not backwards.