Yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a statement of regret at Britain's role in the slave trade. He stopped short of making a formal apology because this will open up claims of reparations from slave descendants.
Campaigners said his statement does not go far enough and have called for a full disclosure of facts and compensation for the families of African people who were sold for slavery.
After reading the news item, I went to Have Your Say and was astonished at the British attitudes to this expression of 'sorrow' and the apology. Some were going on that slavery happened 200 years ago so why should Britain apologies for something that happened so long ago. And some were saying British people should be happy that Britain was the first country to abolish slavery not apologies, and some were saying why do people only concentrated on Black slavery what about the slavery within Britain under Romans and Vikings. Well, the word I would use from reading the posts will be 'shocked'. The racist comments from these 'liberal' people was utterly shocking. But I wasn't surprised, these comments are part of the legacy left by slavery. The thought that these people do not know what it's like to have been under some one's thumb made me angry towards their attitude.
People, mostly people of European descendant are against apologising for slavery because they are afraid of reparation, economic reparation. The thought of them handing out money to Black descendants leaves them shaking in their boots. But they have to admit that slavery and colonialism played a role in the economic development of their country. Businesses, banks to be more exact, profited from the slave trade. African societies were ransacked and new societies were built on the labour and lives of Africans. Slavery and colonialism were carried out for the economic enrichment of Europe and its descendants. So these people who are crying out that they did not have anything to do with slavery and so should not apologise are enjoying the fruits of slave labour.
Stephen Smith said on an online discussion that 'refusing to give an apology is denying responsibility as a nation and serves to re-enforce racial divisions' and I agree. Racial attitudes and mindsets originated from slavery. It was these mindset that also created colonialism, where European countries saw Africa and Africans as mere objects to use and exploit. 'Slave mentality' that Bob Marley sings about in his redemption song derives from slavery. So surely people could see that repercussions of slavery still run deep today so to brush it away as something that happened 200 years ago is foolish and very detrimental.
An apology could be a starting point for people who benefited from slavery and colonisation to build bridges with the victims (slave descendants) of this brutality because living descendants of slaves have not forgotten that slavery existed. Africans have not forgotten that colonialism existed and we still celebrate our independence every year (Botswana's Independence is on the 30 September).
But I must admit some had a point in pointing out that some African chiefs had a hand in selling their people to the slave traders and this needs a proper evaluation of why people would exploit their own. And if reparations are ever made will their descendants pay they price.