Tuesday, March 27, 2007

More on slavery

As time has gone on I've been thinking more about the way in which the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade is being presented.

There has been some argument that the UK government should be apologising for its role in the trade.
For me, I don't think it's the apology itself that's important but what it would symbolise - that this country has come to terms with its past and the source of its wealth.

And it hasn't. Which is why a simple apology isn't the point for me.

You see the focus for the anniversary has all been about the abolition - not the trade itself.
It's been about Wilberforce and the other white men who campaigned for abolition.
Instead of it being an opportunity to take responsibility, it's been used in a self-congratulatory way - 'aren't we all wonderful and liberal to have ended slavery' ...

And did you know this?

Britain did not outlaw slavery until 1833. The transatlantic trade continued under foreign flags for many years.

But the fruits of the trade are still very much in evidence today.
I say again - why is it this country is so comparatively rich?
What is the root of the problems besetting Africa today?

Although there were forms of xenophobia that pre-dated the slave trade, modern day racism is intrinsically linked to the trade.

In order for the appalling treatment of slaves to be justified, it was essential to deprive them of their humanity.
They weren't people.
They were possessions.
So it was ok for law-abiding and often deeply religious people to steal lives, rape and torture and commit unspeakable acts that would be impossible if the slaves were seen as fellow human beings.

That racism - albeit usually a bit more sophisticated (though not always) - is still thriving today.

Have we learned anything?

Judging from what I would argue is a skewed attitude to what this anniversary represents it seems we have not.

And now I'm not only talking about modern-day versions of slavery.
I'm talking about the lessons that still need to be learned from the past.

For the reaction in Ghana to Blair's live message check this out.


Newmania said...

Bollocks ,slavery continued uin Africa long after it was abolished here and why should we not be proud of this Liberal movement .Racism is far more multi dimensional than your think
In 1997 a study for the Institute for Public Policy Research showed that32% of Hindu’s , Muslims and Sikhs and 29% of Jews would be repelled if a member of their family married an Afro-Caribbean , whereas only 13% of white Britons said they would have a problem.

(From How the Liberals Lost their Way by Nick Cohen …..a lefty but its a pretty good book)

. No-one is condemning these” Communities” …… why not ?

People joining dating agencies universally say they are without prejudice and yet universally (nearly ) do not date outside their ethnic group.

Clearly this is a statement of class membership than intent for large numbers .

Do you think I am strange ? I am a Consevative ..we are on 43% . You are , I assume , some sort of Liberal. 18% and falling .

Who is strange. I think it might be good for you to get out and about a bit. Your post is good and you blog has a nice feel about it ? Not everyone will share ytour establishment PC assumptions I `m afraid

Debi said...

Newmania - you misunderstand me if you think I don't know how multi-dimensional racism is. My point in this post was to very specifically draw the link between the slave trade and modern racism.

I also had to laugh at your assumption that I'm a liberal. In fact I'm the kind of person that most liberals feel intimidated by!

I know not everyone will share my assumptions. This post and indeed my whole blog (if not my whole life) is dedicated to those who welcome the dialogue.

Newmania said...

to those who welcome the dialogue.

Yeah same here ..until having been through a process of education they agree with me


Newmania said...

PS I `m going to link to you.OIn the subject of Googles try Googling Nic Boles prospective Tory Mayoral candidate ?( over my dead body )