The Guardian – where else – carries a piece calling for slavery reparations. Which has some interesting bits in it, to be honest. I’d not known that Union Island even existed, let alone that it made up the one estate. I also had to look up to check the claim that it was a cotton (using South Sea, therefore long thread) producing island, not sugar.
All interesting stuff. It appears that Samuel Span, the Bristolian who owned the place, partook of his female slaves as well. Partake having the flexible meaning anywhere between raping them and they desiring children by him to current taste in language. One complaint being made by the writer – a descendant – is that his wholly white family inherited all the money, not all his biological children.
Well, OK, but wills are wills and there’s no state action today that’s going to change that decision made around 1800.
Then the argument rather deteriorates. For our lady came from Union Island and went to university in Bristol. We could just say how cool or we could observe that those past inequalities of 1800 seem to have largely ameliorated by now. But still, she’s asking for reparations – or, perhaps, insisting that reparations on a larger scale, not just to or about her, should happen:
We in the UK need to begin a national debate on reparations for slavery, a crime which heralded the age of capitalism and provided the basis for racism that continues to endanger black life globally. It will follow a landmark US Congress hearing on the topic last year.
Protesters making demands of British institutions and examining the individuals who profited from slavery, must also follow the money trail to places such as Union Island. Our vision for change must be global because Britain, after all, was a vast empire.
But reparations for what? This young lady has not been harmed by slavery. Far from it, in fact she’s very much richer than if slavery had not happened. For here’s what she does now:
Amandla Thomas-Johnson is a freelance foreign correspondent based in Dakar, Senegal
Thus she has direct personal experience of this:
She now lives in a place one sixth as rich as the place she comes from. Or, if we prefer, she comes from a place where slaves were sent which is 6 times richer than that West Africa the slaves came from. Or, as is obvious, the descendants of victims of the slave trade are richer than the descendants of not-victims of the slave trade. At which point reparations for what?
What grates about the demand is that she can look out her front door any day of the week and see this obvious truth. And isn’t there some line about none so stupid as those that will not see?