Can twenty million dollars erase the emotional scars of slavery and the arduous thoughts of our forefathers bending under the whip’s brutality and our African women bowing to the phallic wills of the perceived superior race? Can there ever be adequate compensation for racial wounds – present or past? Will we forget slavery’s sting at the mere issuance of “pain and suffering” dollars? These are some of the questions that come to mind when the idea of reparations surfaces and these are some of the issues which some of the brilliant minds around the region seek to bring to light as the Caribbean Region presses on with the objective of obtaining adequate reparations from the European Metropolis.There is no denying that “slavery happened” says Earl Bouquet, President of St. Lucia’s Reparations Committee and one of the panelists during the Emancipation Day Panel Discussion dubbed “Beyond Emancipation – Reparations” held on July 29th, 2015. Other panelists included Senator and Business Woman Debra Tobierre and Burnet “Bongo Wisely Tafari” Sealy – a leading member of the Rastafari Community in Saint Lucia.
Having established that slavery and “its aftermath remains a very emotional issue, we must now begin the process of healing,” says Floreta Nicholas, a leading local cultural activist. But does that process begin with what some perceive to be the collection of a sizeable cheque from the perpetrators? “Not so,” says Earl Bouquet, “We do not want the Europeans to get the wrong impression – that these ‘niggas’ just want to get their grandfathers’ backpay”.
“The wealth of all those countries was built on the back on the slave trade,” says Keith Compton, President of the Indian Association of Saint Lucia and another panelist. Is this then the sole reason why we should press on with the reparations movement? Travis Weekes, a lecturer at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and a dramatist, thinks that the idea of reparations is an issue that goes “behind the dollars”. To him, “one important outcome that should come from reparations is for Europe to admit its misconception with regards to race – the idea that blacks were inferior. The race issue is often downplayed when it comes to slavery”. This is what Weekes ultimately wants to see change: “the mindset of every state (referring to the United States) which believes that every black person is a potential criminal.” He maintains that it should come to the realization that black people are more than the colour of their skin; they are human beings and perceived inferiority is not a justification for slavery. In essence, we should be looking forward to the changing of the ideology that dictates that blacks are synonymous with inferiority. Can we really place a price tag on that?
– Alicia Valasse