Jamaica wants slavery reparations from the UK

If enacted, slavery reparations (whether to Jamaica, descendants of African slaves in the U.S. or anyone else) need not take the form of a simple cash payout. They could just as easily take the form of scholarship programs, job training, infrastructure investment, small business grants, health care, or a thousand other things that could help impoverished people achieve agency over their own lives.


I’m aware of Native Americans from my hometown getting free tuition from Dartmouth, on the condition they majored in Native American studies. This was perceived as somewhat insulting.



You’re a white guy, right?


Indeed, and I come from a long line of English peasants, who were taxed and worked for the benefit of the same aristocratic landowners who owned slaves elsewhere. Their lives weren’t as bad as slaves, but they sure as heck didn’t benefit from slavery either.

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So you’re a white guy saying the descendants of slaves of white folks don’t really need or deserve reparations. Have I got that correct? Your excuse for this view is “my ancestors had it hard too, even though we weren’t slaves”? I’m not sure what that has to do with the actual situation though since you aren’t personally being asked to pay…

Can you acknowledge that privilege and your own family history may play a role in your opinion and that if, for example, your great-great-grandparents had been slaves (as their ancestors had for generations), you might feel that existing and still around corporations and families that had owned them might owe them some kind of reparations for the wealth built, literally, with their blood and sweat?


You seem to be a good guy in many other ways, but I would not want you to be around my children, because your insistence on the underdog role for black people both disgusts and annoys me.

My daughter doesn’t want or need your championship. She is highly privileged, far more so than many white people I know. When you categorize her by her skin color, that’s racism - think about it, seriously.


Pretty much everyone who wasn’t a slave in a slave-owning society benefited indirectly from slavery, if only because that meant they weren’t on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Most of the people who fought for the Confederacy in the United States didn’t own slaves either, but they still benefited from an economy supported by forced and unpaid labor.

And let’s not forget that for several generations slavery also directly benefited virtually any person who had known the taste of sugar or owned a garment made from cotton. Just as unethical labor practices today benefit people who buy sneakers, clothing, or electronics.


Uhm… You need to wake up and look at the lives of black folks in America. I’m not the one “insisting” on an “underdog” role for them. America pretty comprehensively does so. See all of the stories of black folks getting shot by cops and other folks (as well as other less direct violence) in, oh, say, the last year. Your insistence that they aren’t oppressed is much more racist than my acknowledgment of this oppression could ever be.

So, you’re saying that black folks aren’t a systematically oppressed group in America? I’d go outside and ask my black neighbor across the street or the ones next door about how they feel about their role in America and oppression but I don’t really want to get told to “fuck off” by them.

Might I suggest a book by a black man who makes the points much better than I ever could from a first person point of view? (And, yes, I did actually read this book as well so I know its content.)


I do that every single day, my friend, quite literally. That’s where I happen to live, and the very first face I saw when I woke up this morning was a beautiful (although grumpy) African American face.

You’re trying to tell me my experience and my family are invalid because they don’t fit your pre-conceived notions of what blackness is. That’s prejudice, can’t you see it?

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Yeah yeah yeah, the only racists out there anymore are those who point out racism. Been there heard that, ad nauseam.

So seriously, no one is going to have The Talk with your daughter? If that’s the case, I feel bad for her.


Please answer my question then.

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Your daughter’s opportunities do not in any way diminish the reality of white privilege in greater society.

I like to think that I’m doing everything I can to give my daughter the same opportunities available to my son. That’s no reason to ignore or deny the realities of male privilege. Even if she does manage to realize all of her hopes and dreams without facing any major social obstacles, that wouldn’t mean those obstacles don’t exist for other women the world over.


See, that’s not what I said, but you have a pre-set meme to let you put me in my place.

I’m just like all those people, I guess.

I had to have The Talk with my kids when they were toddlers, because there were swastikas and “kill all n**ger lovers” painted on the sidewalk behind my house.


If you deny the reality of the systematic and multi-generational oppression of Black Americans, yeah. You’re whitewashing (quite literally) the problem away and denying it doesn’t exist doesn’t change the lives of millions and millions of folks. I’m glad your daughter has it good. How much better would America treat her over her life if she was exactly the same except white?

If you acknowledge that there is a difference in how she’d be treated, then my point is made and you acknowledge racism is at work, right?


I’ll leave to one side your suggestion that the colour of someone’s skin, or their upbringing disqualifies from having an opinion on a public policy proposal. My great, great, great (x however many) parents were very much exploited by aristocratic families, a small number of whom are still around and rich today as a result (although most aren’t). The Danish royal family are descended from the Vikings who charged danegeld, Almost certainly my family will have been taxed by the Duke of Gloucester’s antecedents. I’ve no claim to their assets, they’ve done me no ill, for whatever damage they might have done my ancestors, or however notionally better my position might be today.

As for the suggestion that reparations for slavery ought to be paid by “corporations and families”, it’s just not possible. In the first case, I’d be amazed if you can find a UK corporation that benefited from slavery in Jamica in 1832. Even if you could (perhaps Tate & Lyle or someone similar?), the company will certainly have changed hands many times in the interim - who would actually pay? As for families, in the 170 odd years since slavery was abolished, literally millions of people across the world will have a relation who owned slaves. Lots of folks will have had relations who were both slaves and slave owners. How would you go about collecting the money?

Advocates of reparations recognise that, which is why they want countries to pay. In the case of the UK, this would mean that the 800,000 Jamaican British people would pay money (via their taxes) to compensate the 2.7m Jamaicans who still live in Jamica. On top of that, presumably the 3 million odd British Asians, whose might well argue their ancestors didn’t benefit from slavery in any arguable way, would pay too. I could go on, but you get my point.

Morally, I don’t believe the sins of the father are visited on the son, and practically there is no sensible or fair way to go about collecting it.


It doesn’t disqualify them from having an opinion. That opinion is rooted in a level of privilege though and, on the Internet especially, it is usually white males telling minorities that they don’t deserve something or who complain about some attitudes of a minority. It is easy to dismiss someone else’s opinion when, compared to them, one is on the top of the heap. That needs to be acknowledged. I’m not going to listen to a black American, for example, complain about racial injustice and then tell him, as a white male, that he or she is making a big deal out of nothing and they should get over it and suck it up.


So what you’re saying (probably without realizing it) is, only benefits should be transferred from sinning fathers to sons.


So that’s an example of privilege (or rather, lack thereof) right there.

White people who don’t live in mixed-race families rarely if ever face that kind of bigotry and harassment, even if they have bigoted neighbors. Your daughter was denied that privilege because of the color of her skin. It sounds like she has other kinds of advantages going for her, such as loving and supportive parents, and that’s great. But from a racial standpoint she already has faced challenges that other kids haven’t, and it’s likely she will continue to face similar challenges in the future.


So if my family was able to do well, buy a home, or run a business 100 years ago because of the benefits of slavery, and, down through the years, my family has continued to build on this or at least do ok, sending people to school, etc., I’ve still in no way benefited from the original circumstances of my ancestors?

My family never owned any slaves. That said, my family has owned houses in areas where black Americans were simply not allowed to own homes and worked in professions where blacks were not allowed to work. I think that means I’ve benefited from their oppression.