I have seen with mixed feelings a recent reappearance of talk about reparations. Many of my cousins of African origin are still underprivileged by prevailing standards – or aspirations – of living. But others with similar origins manage comparative affluence. I count myself among the fortunate latter, though mainly through choosing to limit my needs. I don’t think the descendants of my distant forbears, among those dragged from the mother continent to satisfy European greed, have in the main failed to adapt to their new opportunities post-slavery.
There are a couple of responses that might be made to this reparation issue, possibly risking ad hominem attacks branding one an Uncle Tom or a traitor to the pristine culture. First, I value my African genes as highly as all the others in my mongrel make-up. I truly believe the strengths I and others derive from that heritage are all the stronger because of the experience of slavery and recovery from those most adverse of circumstances. I think those strengths equip us to deal with the present, to move on from ancient history without anyone’s gift of conscience money.
Those of us who have been deliberately disadvantaged in the last few generations have been victims of New World greed. There have probably been even more unhappy results of inhumane exploitation among descendants of those who were not sold to slavers, yet today are forced into voluntary migration out of Africa, occasionally with tragic results as we saw recently. Those who choose to remain at home in Guyana surely have the ability to overcome present inequities without external assistance so long post facto,
Which leads us to the lemonade argument. No one, absolutely no one, chooses which family to be born into. We find ourselves, in each generation, landed in a particular set of resources.
Are we going to get on with the task of making the most of what fate hands us, or are we going to look backwards for scapegoats to blame our challenges on? I agree we should be looking for justice against those who have violated our economic rights, but if we don’t start with those we voted for, or didn’t vote for, since Guyana’s accession to democracy, I think it’s a weak fall-back to make claims upon the distant past.