Reparations At What Price?

11 April 2014 Author  FELICIA J. PERSAUD

repatriation---2014On Mar. 10, behind closed doors in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 15 CARICOM leaders reportedly adopted a 10-point plan prepared by a British law firm that calls for reparations for slavery inflicted by former European colonizers.

According to Martyn Day, of the Leigh Day law firm, Caribbean leaders at the 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM signed off on a plan calling for a formal apology for slavery, debt cancellation from former colonizers such as Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands, and reparation payments to repair the persisting “psychological trauma.”

Psychological trauma is largely defined as “a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event.

“This can be a single experience, or an enduring or repeated event or events, that completely overwhelm the individual’s ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotions involved with that experience,” according to psychologists.

Trauma

This type of trauma can be delayed by weeks, years or even decades, as the person struggles to cope with the immediate circumstances, and can lead to serious long-term negative consequences that are often overlooked even by mental health professionals, experts say.

Applying this definition to the reparation call and the 10-point plan prepared by CARICOM leaders means that we are admitting that slavery caused slaves, and are still causing descendants of slaves today across the Caribbean and the black diaspora, severe trauma. Trauma so deep, that the great Marcus Garvey, quoted by Bob Marley in song, called it “mental slavery.”

Mental slavery according to several black academics, cripples its victim, making them ineffective, self destructive, self hating, and dangerous.

“Mental slavery may cause the victim to sell out family members, coworkers, and anyone else who possess a different mindset. A mental slave will not investigate nor research history or current events. They have a nasty habit of accepting and believing what is told to them, whether it’s true or not and are filled with envy, self hate, ignorance, intolerance, and maliciousness.”

No Input

These exact characteristics persist in the Caribbean and the black diaspora today. So how will the Day law firm measure this cost in order to seek reparation? What figure do you put on slavery that persists in generations who continue to tear each other down and cannot see the bigger picture? And why has no one consulted the black Caribbean diaspora for its input on this?

Day and the governments want European “aid” in strengthening the region’s public health, educational and cultural institutions, such as museums and research centers; assistance to boost the region’s technological know-how since the Caribbean was denied participation in Europe’s industrialization and confined to producing and exporting raw materials such as sugar; and the creation of a “repatriation program”, including legal and diplomatic assistance from European governments, to potentially resettle members of the Rastafarian spiritual movement in Africa.

Day, who has waged a successful fight for an award compensation of about $21.5 million for surviving Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government during the so-called Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s, called the plan a “fair set of demands on the governments whose countries grew rich at the expense of those regions whose human wealth was stolen from them.”

‘Aid’

No figure has been released on an upfront award to the Caribbean and the people of the diaspora, but the words “aid” and “assistance” in the call tells us don’t expect much more than hand outs even as the Caribbean Reparations Commission Chairman Hilary Beckles, a scholar who has written several books on the history of Caribbean slavery, said he was “very pleased” that the political leaders adopted the plan. Seems to me like slavery all over again.

Are we as Caribbean leaders really content to continue to seek hand outs for damages that enslaved some four million West Africans between 1600 and 1870 and have ruined generations and continue to destroy us? And what about the damages caused to the people of the black diaspora who are from the Caribbean but live outside the region? Do we get nothing at all?

Maybe it is time CARICOM and Day pay a visit to the Caribbean diaspora for their input on this and try again to find an exact per person figure that may help to ease the pain not just of slavery but help us to begin to love ourselves and each other as black people and unite. Only then will reparation matter; only then will it make sense as it will finally change the lives of generations to come. Only then will we truly achieve emancipation and freedom from mental slavery.

Felicia J. Persaud is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now. She lives in the United States.

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