The Global Push for Reparations: Don Rojas (Caricom News, February 8, 2018).

AuthorFrith, Nicola

STRUGGLE: The descendants of those who were colonized have long been calling for justice

THE PAST 20 years has seen a gradual resurfacing of public memories relating to Europe's enslavement of African people after decades of state silence.

This memory work has served, in part, to confront the lack of public recognition concerning the centrality of this crime against humanity in having financed the development of modern European societies.

For centuries, however, the descendants of those who were colonised and enslaved have been calling for reparatory justice to address the long-standing and harmful legacies of enslavement, colonial oppression and indigenous genocide. This claim has gone unmet.

Reparations remain a political taboo, misrepresented as a pay cheque, while none of the enslaving nations have been willing to engage in discussions. To take a few recent examples, the British Minister of state with responsibility for the Caribbean, Commonwealth and the United Nations, Lord Tariq Ahmad, concluded his recent tour of the Caribbean with the declaration that "the issue of reparations can only stifle the deep cooperation and opportunities that exist and which can be broadened for economic gain going forward".

This veiled threat was a response to the calls that have been growing in the Caribbean for European nations to engage in reparative justice through the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) 10 point reparation plan.

Instead, Ahmad called for Jamaicans to "look ahead", rather than "peer into history". Likewise, during a visit to Jamaica in 2015, the former Conservative prime minister David Cameron, appealed to the Jamaican people to "move on" and focus instead on trade (before offering to hand out [pounds sterling]25 million in foreign aid to construct a prison).

This stance is not new. In the build-up to the 2007 bi- centenary of the Abolition Act (1807), the Labour prime minister, Tony Blair, refused to offer a full apology for Britain's crime against humanity for fear of opening the door to reparation claims.

The dismissive language used by the British, as well as other European governments, has repeatedly sought to misrepresent the legitimate quest for reparative justice by defining it either backwards-looking or legally unfounded and socially divisive.

Yet, there is no sign that these political tactics will stymy the work of social movements. Far from it! Indeed, the concept of reparation, and the associ- ated quest for repatriation, have...

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