The Soapbox: Correcting the sins of our fathers

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“We still commit murder because of greed, spite, jealousy. And we still visit all of our sins upon our children. … We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything we’ve done. … You cannot play God and then wash your hands of the things you’ve created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things you’ve done anymore.” — Edward James Olmos as Cdr. William Adama, Battlestar Galactica

North America was built on the backs of slaves and the disenfranchised, brought to this continent by its European forefathers to work the land.

It is a difficult reality to face, but it’s the truth, and something that most people have owned up to in one sense or another in the centuries since.

Slavery has been condemned, its practitioners for the most part chastised, and the practice abandoned. But the grim fact remains that settlers from England, France and other nations abducted men and women from their homes in Africa and the Caribbean and moved them here against their will to work without compensation.

It is one of this content’s darkest moments. Coupled with the treatment of the First Nations people in Canada and south of the border, it paints a very clear picture of the horrors of colonialism in a time when the rights of human beings had not fully been established or acknowledged.

But times have changed. The bulk of the Western world now lives in nations built on the tradition of a constitution, in which the rights of every man, woman and child are protected.

The same cannot be said for many of the nations from which those slaves were taken.

This is the assertion of Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to the Huffington Post, Gonsalves has been spearheading an effort by more than a dozen Caribbean nations to demand recompense and apologies from the three European nations responsible for much of the Atlantic slave trade: Britain, France and the Netherlands.

Though constitutions and promises and other measures exist to curb the impact of slavery at home, and there have been some efforts to restore nations whose economies were jeopardized by the practice, it holds true that the actions of those men who first settled North America — the slave traders who abducted innocent individuals — have echoed through the centuries.

The economic disparity, discrimination and disenfranchisement that entire segments of populations in the Caribbean and even within our own countries feel is a direct result of the practice.

“The apology is important but that is wholly insufficient … we have to have the appropriate recompense,” Gonsalves told the Associated Press.

He’s absolutely correct. No amount of money will fix the intangible damages done by the slave trade, but it could go a long way to helping these nations.

And a genuine apology just might reverberate within those European nations — and across the world.

The alternative? Let the disparity, discrimination and disenfranchisement continue.

Which seems the better option to you?

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