I read the Guardian article detailing Cameron’s brief engagement of the conversation regarding the repayment of reparations to Jamaica for Britain’s part in the African slave trade. Cameron, when finally addressing the issue on his trip to Jamaica earlier this week, advised Jamaica should “move on from the awful legacy of slavery”.
At this point I felt myself giving the whole of the British government and all of British society for that matter a significant side eye.
Cameron in his speech stated:
“That the Caribbean has emerged from the long shadow it cast is testament to the resilience and spirit of its people. I acknowledge that these wounds run very deep indeed. But I do hope that, as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future.”
My problem with it all
No British prime minister has visited Jamaica in the past 14 years. However when one finally decides to drop by, it is to discuss building Jamaican prisons to deport Jamaican prisoners residing in British prisons that currently cannot be deported. This is due to the state of Jamaica’s prisons at present, and the human rights laws that Britain would breach if it were to send Jamaican prisoners back to incarceration in their birthplace at this time.
So in short, the visit was regarding alleviating the strain on the British prison system. The British government have done the calculations and realised that it is cheaper to build a prison in Jamaica than it is to build more prisons in Britain, (and of course, where would they find the space for more prisons here? With all those pesky immigrants taking over the UK and what not)
Considering the fact that Britain is only in touch with Jamaica when it affords them some benefit; Am I wrong in questioning the authenticity of this ‘friendship’ Cameron speaks of?
Personal responsibility and it’s discontents
Poverty has ripped through Jamaica ever since it was granted it’s destitution, or as it is more popularly termed, it’s ‘independence’ from British colony in 1962 and the economy has failed to progress ever since. Jamaica struggles with many aspects of society including education, healthcare and infrastructure, and David Cameron shows up to speak about prisons?
Cameron’s ‘let’s move on’ perspective shows that there is no humanitarian hand in the way Britain are tackling the reparation conversation, only age-old western economic preservation and greed.
Cameron focused his discourse on the efforts Britain had put forth to bring Slavery to an end, placing Britain as the lesser of two evils with the US, who did not abolish the slave trade until 1865, 58 years after Britain. A point that Britain evidently feel is a redeeming factor.
Cameron’s speech on this issue was at best disingenuous and at worst, evasive and condescending.
Britain’s first slave expedition was carried out by John Hawkins of Plymouth, Devon in 1562. Hawkins sailed to Africa and kidnapped approximately 400 African people for free labour in the west Indies. From official beginning to end, the slave trade spanned a total of 278 years. No compensation. And more to the point, no apology.
Reparations to repair a nation?
Here’s an idea. Firstly, why doesn’t Britain relieve all Afro-Carribean citizens living in Britain of income tax for the next 278 years? The same amount of time as their involvement in the trade of African slaves. They should also foot the bill for re-building the Jamaican economy. In agreement with Upinthear.com, I believe Britain should in addition begin the process of writing off Jamaica’s enormous national debt.
Britain has a way of selling it’s own supremacy as equality. Pushing the notion that we are all so far removed for slavery and it’s effects, that slavery itself no longer has any relevance. This is not true, as it is clear to see that descendants of African slaves worldwide are still at a significant economic disadvantage.
If we are to truly move on from slavery, then we need to remedy it’s consequences. If Cameron’s obvious dismissal of this issue does not encourage and drive all those who had previously signed the contract of post-racialism to opt out of said contract and speak up, then nothing will.