The Caribbean countries have been insisting that Europe pay back the reparations due for the years of enslavement they had been subjected to- a movement that has gained more traction this year after Barbados’ decision to abandon the status of a Constitutional Monarchy on November 30, 2021, which is also the country’s 55th anniversary of Independence.
Hilary Beckles, the head of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Reparations Commission was quoted saying the following on 1st August- the Caribbean Emancipation Day, “Europe has a debt to our people, and now is the time to pay,”
“Apologies are precursors for reparations. Apologies are signals of intent to participate in the reparatory process. Apologies are stage one of an effort that says we acknowledge the harm we have caused and we are prepared to enter phase two which is a discussion and negotiations about how to repair that harm and that suffering that continues to be the legacy of slavery in the Caribbean today.” – Hilary Beckles (Head of Caribbean Community (Caricom) Reparations Commission
Beckles is a Historian and the vice-chancellor of the University of West Indies in Barbados. He is also one of the many who were personally affected by the colonization practices of Europe since his great-great-grandparents were enslaved on the Barbadian plantation that was owned by the ancestors of British actor Benedict Cumberbatch. He has been championing the cause of reparations and has even held a three-day summit for the same.
History of Greed and Violence
Professor of Caribbean History at the University of Warwick and former Director of the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies say it was in the 15th Century, the Caribbean was colonized by Spain. From the 17th century, England and France joined in, all sharing the common motive of acquiring wealth in the form of gold and silver. Soon, they would discover that there was potential here for something far more valuable- sugar.
After unsuccessful attempts to grow tobacco, the English colonials began to grow Sugarcane. This crop was used in the making of chocolates, tea, and rum- all products of high demand. Making estate owners extremely wealthy and also inviting many wars between France and England for the acquisition of more estates.
The increase in sugar plantations led to a demand for enslaved workers. Almost five million were brought in from Africa for this purpose, and over time they became the majority population.
By the 19th century, people began to revolt against slavery, and the enslaved workers were ‘given their freedom’, or emancipated.
Justice for Slavery
Since 1993, the Caricom Reparations Commission has been seeking compensation for all the human rights violations, slavery, and resource drain that the Europeans had done as plantation owners.
The issue was bought up once again on the occasion of The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, which is celebrated annually on 2nd December. It was declared by the United Nations in 1949 when the “Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others” was approved.
It is also included in the United Nations’ agenda which celebrates March 25th as the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.