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Letter: Financial reparations a desecration of my forefathers' legacy
Published on August 30, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

There is a popular jazz song that has a simple but profound chorus: “Mama may have, papa may have, but God bless the child that has his own.” The message behind this little chorus is your parents may have worked and gained some of this world’s possession. Your parents’ possessions are not yours; as a result, you are not to slack off and laze around, depending on that which your parents have acquired for themselves; for it is the things that they have acquired in their days of strength and health are what they have to rely on to sustain them in the vulnerable time of their old age. We all have an obligation to emulate our parents, go into the world and work to generate some living for ourselves.

There is a related proverb or saying that my father Hamilton Palmer repeated to me on several occasions and that is: Don’t ever become jealous of a person for what he has; for you do not know how hard he worked and or what he had to do to acquire his possessions. For the person may have worked hard, took insults, etc., in the acquisition of the things they have; if that is the case, he earned it and should be allowed to enjoy the pleasures of such, the reward of his efforts and the indignity he underwent. Or he or she may have performed some dishonest deeds to get such. If that is the case, one day that person will have to pay for his misdeeds; and when that day comes, you will not want to be made to help him suffer the consequences of his action, so allow him to enjoy the short lived pleasure that is the reward of his acquisitions.

For many years I have heard members of my community speak of reparations for the transatlantic slave trade and the cruel, inhuman and the exploitative treatment that was inflicted upon African slaves and their descendents; bad treatment that spanned centuries. It is true that many nations, corporations, families and individuals the world over benefited tremendously and amassed exorbitant wealth from the trade and exploitation of Africans and the descendents of Africans who were captured, forced into slavery and treated with the greatest of human indignity during this period.

As of recent, many Caribbean leaders and other groups in their lust for the riches and wealth of the wicked and the descendents of the wicked (the descendents may not be wicked), are wasting time and resources to persuade the people of this era and generation, to go in search for monies from the descendants of evil men for raping, buggering, ill treating and doing all manner of evil to our fore-parents. All of the monies in the world cannot compensate for one incident of rape that occurred during this period of uncivilized behaviour that is slavery.

To go cap in hand, not to seek for public admittance and a public apology on behalf of our African ancestors and their descendants from the descendants of the people who exploited our forefathers; thus having them admit that the actions of their forefathers as it relates to slavery were indeed cruel, inhumane, exploitive and wrong. To go begging for a handout for ourselves pretending it is on behalf of our enslaved fore-parents is wrong. I say it now: every quest for monetary reparation is a betrayal of the memory of my proud ancestors and a public desecration of their legacy and anyone who attempts to do such is no better than the cruel men and women who exploited our fore-parents in the era of slavery.

Our fore-parents despised the system that held them captive, the people who enslaved them and stripped them of their dignity; they would not have touched or taken a dime of their wealth of blood or take a handout from their “masters” but they fought daily for what they needed, which was their God given right to be what the almighty God Yahweh meant for them to be: free men and women with the ability to exercise their consciences; to be treated equally.

Our moral right to benefit from our fore-parents’ suffering

Do the people in this era have a moral right to benefit financially from the enslavement and suffering from our forefathers? Let us take some time to examine the moral right of the people to do so.

The people of this generation have failed to live up to the values that our ancestors held dear, we have refused to cherish their memories, we have also failed to teach our children of their way of life and their experiences, we have caused the memory of their life to perish with the passing of time, we have also rejected the lifestyle, daily practice and the traditions that made our fore-parents a unique people and would have made us unique as well.

Even the day that is dedicated to the memory of their suffering, their struggle and their freedom we have taken for our own pleasure and have refused to give them the honour of remembering their lives and struggles. When you consider our daily betrayal of their memory and the effort we put into destroying their legacy, we should be ashamed. It is clear that we have been made to feel and have become ashamed of their lives, their suffering and their struggles, yet we are hoping to capitalize and benefit financially from such. Such a thought makes me sick to my stomach.

The economic sense of reparations

It is clear that this new call for reparations is coming from a place of economic insecurity that is being experienced by the political leaders of the Caribbean in this season of international economic hardship. It is also clear that the international economic climate has changed and finances (loans, grants and other gifts) are not easy to come by as it was in the past. This recent development has plunged our leaders into a state of political and economic insecurity and it is evident that such insecurity is now being transformed into desperation.

It is important to note that most developed country to whom the demand of reparations will be made are themselves experiencing financial and economic hardship. Like their poorer counterparts, they have dwindling budgets, growing unemployment, cutbacks on capital and other projects, retrenchments, etc. In other words these countries are experiencing grave financial difficulties and a great number of them have large international debts that they are unable to adequately service.

So the real question we have got to ask is does England and the other countries have monies to give us as compensation for misdeeds their forefathers have inflicted upon our forefathers centuries ago, while they are unable to meet their own budgetary needs?

Charity begins at home

While our governments are desperately trying to entice the people to develop a craving for the wealth of others and are making plans to go and search of the blood monies from the grandchildren of the proponents of slavery in Europe, how about we first get reparations from the descendents of the slaves owners that live among us. For the records in England said that the fore-parents of the Viera, the Graves, the Gonsalves, the Ponettes, etc., who are living with us right here in the Caribbean, were actively involved, participated in and benefited from the cruel treatment of slaves.

The big questions that must be answered are: did these families and other families in St Vincent and the Grenadines in any way benefit from the enslavement of African and their descendants? Yes they did. Should we now penalize the descendents of these families for the roles their fore-parents played in the exploitation of Africans and their descendants? No.

Since Ralph E. Gonsalves is the main proponent of reparations in St Vincent and the Grenadines, I, Allan H. F. Palmer, hereby demand reparations from the Gonsalves family of St Vincent and the Grenadines, for the evil the Gonsalves inflicted on members of the African-Vincentian community during slavery. I need a public admission and an apology from Ralph Gonsalves and his family on behalf of his forefathers for the role they played in the cruel enslavement of my people.

Please think clearly; after considering the historical records, should Gonsalves and the others whose forefathers were owners of plantations, kept slaves and have so benefited from the blood of our forefathers be made once again to benefit from reparation? This means these families will benefit twice in different eras. First their forefathers were responsible for enslaving and mistreating African and the descendents of African during slavery and they have benefited tremendously from slavery and now they are also going to side with the descendents of slaves, cry foul for and with us and once again benefit from reparations. This thought is very funny but not funny enough to make me laugh.

The hypocrisy of reparations

This is the hypocrisy of reparations; how can the British admit that they have wronged us and make the decision to shell out billions of dollars to compensate the descendents of slaves for the evil of slavery, when we have the descendents of slaves owners living among us, are licking their lips and greedily rubbing their palms together in anticipation of benefiting financially from reparations; while they are still treating us like slaves and refusing to apologize for their forefathers participation in slavery.

Although I will never support the move to seek international financial reparations, I am of the opinion that these things should be fine tuned before you go overseas to seek financial reparations. If from no one else, we must first secure an apology from the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph E. Gonslaves, for the evil of his fore-parents (who were owners of slaves), for the demeaning, inhumane treatment and pain inflicted by them upon Africans and the descendents of Africans during slavery.

We cannot hide our heads in the sand and pretend, for there are those among us who did benefit from the evil of slavery. I am persuaded that this request for local reparations is a fair and a just one and must come before international reparations are tackled.

Allan Palmer
 
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Comments:

Wat Tyler:

I am , i have to admit an English working class person so i will not comment on the rights and wrongs of the argument for reparations for slavery. i would ask that it should be remembered that the english/british working classes of that time (the peasants) had been dispossessed of their livelihoods and forced to work in the same factories that were making use of the cotton etc that slaves in the Caribbean were producing. whole families including children of 5 yrs old worked in "those dark satanic mills" and were often killed an maimed in the machinery and once used they were usually discarded to die in the workhouses as criminals. there is no excuse for slavery. what i am trying to show that both slaves in the Caribbean and the English peasant were treated as a commodity or a possession and the argument should be directed against the system that today we call the capitalist system that still treats all working classes in the same way

Hubert Bailey:

I read your mind Mr. A.Palmer, and I believe that your statement began on a highly negative note. Reparations in my view for our people is not one of greed. Whatever took place hundreds of years ago was wrong then and is wrong now. Keep in mind that deep racism by the same European race is still being dished out with brutal force against our race. That alone should let you know that what took place then and is taken place now is wrong. What they did to the Jews was wrong, is it because they are considered white or Caucasian that they were paid. What the history of slavery did to our ancestors destroyed their mind. Our ancestors were not given a living wage. If they were we wont be here shouting this word reparations. Why do you believe that so many of our people don't have the ability to learn, to concentrate in schools today. It is because of what took place during our ancestors centuries of slavery. Why do you think that only 12% of the population in the Caribbean region survives and the rest of us suffer. You mentioned about the children of our ancestors slave masters living amongst us and controlling our economic and financial development, well it was turned over to them, because most of our ancestors did not have what it took to run a country. And you know well that slavery ended only because of science and technology which took the place of brutal and oppressive slavery. Yes, as a Black man that came from the roots of slavery, and one that can read, write and study what was done to my ancestors. I have that right to demand reparations for them. The point is, what will we do with it, and how will we develop our people from it. Look at what happened to the Black Caribs in our country, must they sit back and not seek reparations from the British. If you pay one you must pay all, and as I said before that before we seek reparations from the European race. We must seek unity amongst our own Caribbean family. We must create our own reparations foundation, and from there we will have a leg to stand on. Slavery was only abolished in the West, slavery still continues throughout Africa, and mostly by the Arabs, or Muslim religion. Do you hear, any leader coming out publicly and demanding that it stop. It is from the power of the once enslaved that has the power through unity to put a stop to the oppression of his race. Reparations must be paid.

H Bailey.

Arnold Thomas:

Allan Palmer I strongly recommend that you get an education in the history of SVG to learn when and where those those white folks you mentioned came here. Unless you know it all already you might even change your way of thinking!

STEVE_HUGGINS:

Come on famo Arnold, don't just "wet yuh fut" and scram. Please educate or inform us, particularly that highly provocative Allan Palmer on WHEN AND WHERE THOSE WHITE FOLKS [HE] MENTIONED CAME HERE [i.e., SV]. I for one am hungry for that type of info and elucidation. Sock it to us.
After all, Dr. Thomas, IF your are 'correct', then to treat Palmer's piece so resentfully is LIKE CUSSING A BLIND MAN WHO PRESUMABLY CANNOT SEE.

Help we, yuh fello Vincies to cross the road, nuh?

'Nuff respect brethren. Keep the groundings going --- besides PASITIVE AND CANSTRUCTIVE.

Peter:

Our very own PM Gonsalves is related to the Gonsalves family of Madeira, a former Portuguese owned island off the West coast of Africa. Antonio Gonsalves the sea captain took the first African slaves from a beach in North West Africa, this very action was the start of the African Atlantic slave trade. In my view this man, and his extended Maderian family and the Portuguese government should pay the first reparations. After all they started it and they shipped almost as many slaves as the rest of the Europeans put together.

If its good for the British to be asked for reparations it must be good to ask for the Gonsalves and Portugal to pay first.

He is super rich so let him pay, and pay the soonest.

European African Slavery Totals
by Slave-Trading Countries
Britain: 2,600,000
Denmark: 50,000
France: 1,250,000
Holland: 500,000
Portugal/Brazil: 4,650,000
Spain: 1,600,000
U.S.A.: 300,000
Others: 50,000
Total: 11,000,000

We should ask Sir Hilldred Bollocks to write about that.

I hope you are aware that these demands on the British will get us no where, but the side effect will be the destruction of our tourism in the whole Caribbean. No one wants to holiday in countries where they are stirring the hatred pot, because that's what the Brits will believe, and rightly so.


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