‘Sorry is not enough’, Caribbean states say of British slavery apologies

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Sir Hilary Beckles

(Reuters) – British financial institutions that benefited from slavery such as Lloyd’s of London should go further than saying sorry for their role in the Atlantic slave trade and atone for their sins by funding Caribbean development, the region’s countries said.

More than 10 million Africans were shackled into the Atlantic slave trade by European nations between the 15th and 19th centuries. Those who survived the often brutal voyage, ended up toiling on plantations in the Americas.

While the history of Europe’s scramble for African slaves has been widely known for centuries, the death of George Floyd in the United States has prompted a sweeping global reassessment of racism and the financing of the slave trade.

The Lloyd’s of London insurance market apologised on Thursday for its “shameful” role in the 18th Century Atlantic slave trade and pledged to fund opportunities for black and ethnic minority people.

But a regional alliance of Caribbean countries said that Britain’s institutions should go much further than simply apologising and give some of the wealth back to the Caribbean by funding development at the epicentre of the slave trade.

“It is not enough to say sorry,” said Hilary Beckles, chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission which was set up by Caribbean countries to seek reparations from former colonial powers such as the United Kingdom, France and Portugal.

“We are not asking for anything as mendicant as handing out cheques to people on street corners,” Beckles told Reuters from Jamaica. “The issue of money is secondary, but in this instance the moral discharge of one’s duty does require in a market economy that you contribute towards development.”

There was no immediate reply from Lloyd’s of London to a request for comment.

NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT

Beckles, a Barbadian historian, said the antecedents of many British and European banks, as well as an array of accompanying institutions in the City of London, “drank from the well of Caribbean slavery”.

The Bank of England apologised for what it called the “inexcusable connections” of some past governors and directors to slavery, and said it would remove any portraits of them from display anywhere on its premises.

The history of several other British financial firms, including Barclays (BARC.L), is also under fresh scrutiny.

“Unfortunately, one cannot go back and remake the history but you can make atonement: it is not enough to make your apology as a public spectacle, it is not enough to present it as public relations exercise,” said Beckles.

“It is not about public relations – it is about a negotiated settlement whereby everyone finds closure within a moral framework,” he said. “To say sorry and issue a press release is disrespectful – it does not fly with the people who were victimized.”

British institutions, he said, should sit down with Caribbean nations to fund development projects – or even consider a sort of “Marshall Plan” to give some of the plundered wealth back – a reference to the U.S. aid given to Europe after the destruction of World War Two.

“The British legacy of slavery and colonalisation has left the black community in quite a mess,” Beckles said, adding that he was not calling for litigation of any kind.

“All the institutions that created this mess really have to come and help in practical ways to clean it up.”

On Britain’s broader reassessment of its past, Beckles said public consciousness was catching up with history.

“Public consciousness is catching up with history: that moment has come. British public morality has caught up with its own institutional history of slavery.”

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Editing by William Maclean

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8 COMMENTS

  1. If we take sugar money from dem then how we different from dem ? To this day I never spend a dollar no slave work fah. Tell missa Lloyd me woulda rather go hungry. Send me a reparation check and I’ll throw it back in you fkn face in pieces!!

  2. Additionally, I personally would like to know my history. The history of Waladli, Wa’ Omoni, Waitikubuli, and all the other islands, along with the history of Africa, before Europeans came plundering. The Slave Trade was a well documented moment in history. Where is the history of our (Africa and the Caribbean) people? What is done is done, but we are the ones left to deal with the Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder and no one is talking about it.

  3. Let’s also go after those African nations and tribes who sold their own people to the devilish European slave traders. That’s a part of the history that can’t be covered up anymore. Wicked and corrupt tribal leaders also had a part in this. What a mess. Uncover everything! Don’t forget to look into the Arab part in this, too. Lots yet to be uncovered, not to mention Black planters who owned Black slaves in the Americas. My God, this is one wicked mess.

  4. This thing was a sleeping dog. Slavery was abolished so long ago. Everyone or most everyone is prospering. Why rake up old coals? The Americans started and you all are following suit. Look at all those black rappers, sports people, movie stars and more. They have millions dollar mansions, cars that cost more than a house cost. They live in post areas with tons if security.To me they are privileged. Follow footsteps kiss dog Bam Bam. All you go ahead and follow americans

  5. Look, most of us have security bars on our windows and doors. Who are we trying to keep out?

    I read somewhere where this black person said that he’s walking on a dark night. He hears footsteps behind him. He quickens his pace but turns around. He breathes a sigh of relief when he sees that it is a white man behind him.

    • @ Ssndra- wow! Sounds like you have some underlining, deep seeded issues. Then again, it’s your perspective. Our issues and plight is indeed not the same as the Americans, however if you travel to the US, UK, Asia etc, it’s your plight as well. Never mind, maybe we can focus on the social issues in our Island like classism and colorism and make sure that we are socially conscious. Remember our past, be intentional with the current and forecast a better future.

      • Your issues snd plight should be focusing on what you and others can do to improve conditions in your islsnd/ country. If what happened to the man in the states had happened in any Caribbean island americans wouldn’t give a fig. Americans had a rally calling for slavery reparation some years ago. They want more than the forty acres and a mule now. They want moneytary compensation in the billions. Well, my opinion, because I don’t know what else they are seeking. Many blacks in America are more privileged than some whites. Whatever, clean up your own backyard because taking up America’s fight will not benefit you.

  6. You appear to be a slave to your own past. Where do you think disaster funds come from man. You are my equal and I am no more than an equal to you. Move on fella.

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