We need reparations for slavery not a Royal visit to Jamaica

For the Royals, it seems this trip hasn’t been what they expected (Picture: Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock)

Germany paid reparations towards the victims of the Holocaust and their descendants. 

America paid reparations to those who suffered in the Japanese internment camps during the Second World War. 

New Zealand agreed to pay reparations to Maori people. 

With the precedent already set, it seems strange that it is considered impossible to do the same for the descendants of those who suffered from slavery in the Caribbean. 

It may seem like a new discussion, following William and Kate’s visit, but reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade on Caribbean nations have been campaigned for over many decades.

Personally, as someone of Jamaican decent, I think they are not only desirable, but an entirely feasible outcome.

People in the Caribbean, and the wider Black diaspora feel the time to speak is now in the face of continuous silence from the British political elite. 

Prince William may have mentioned slavery in his address the night before last, but he didn’t go nearly far enough. 

In a rare speech discussing the slave trade, Prince William stated ‘I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened.’

While acknowledging the past, the Prince did not go any further in discussing how the slave trade benefited his ancestors and the country.

His speech seemed barely an improvement from the words of former Prime Minister David Cameron, who told Jamaicans to ‘move on from the painful legacy of slavery’ during a visit in 2015.

It’s why so many lauded Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who, in contrast, stated the Commonwealth ‘must acknowledge the past’ when meeting with the leaders of those nations in the summer of 2020. 

Not only was that a welcome intervention – it is entirely correct.

Neglecting the past only creates more animosity and divisions between people of Commonwealth states (specifically those in the Caribbean affected by slavery) and the Crown. 

The lack of willingness to engage on the idea of reparations is all the more startling considering how the opulence gained from plantations in the Caribbean contributed to Britain becoming an economic powerhouse during the industrial revolution.

Slavery’s bitter legacy has partially underpinned the economic underdevelopment of the Caribbean in former colonies such as Jamaica, and their relationship with the ‘mother country’ has rarely felt mutually beneficial.

In a sign of how bad this Royal visit has been, it seems to have only accelerated the widespread appetite in Jamaica to join Barbados in becoming a full Republic.

The Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness even told Prince William directly at a bilateral meeting that the country was ready to take the appropriate steps. 

Nothing made the disconnect many people from countries such as Jamaica feel towards the monarchy more apparent than that. 

For the Royals, it seems this trip hasn’t been what they expected. 

There’s been an open letter commissioned by Jamaican politicians, religious leaders, musicians, and politicians outlining their request for reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade. 

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visit the Trench Town Culture Yard Museum

In short, demonstrators told the Royal Family they were not welcome (Picture: Chris Jackson-Pool/Getty Images)

Those Jamaicans refuse to mark the Queen’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee because ‘her leadership, and that of her predecessors, have perpetuated the greatest human rights tragedy in the history of humankind.’

In Belize, local farmers curtailed the Royal visit by protesting their arrival at a Belizean village. 

Inhabitants of Indian Creek told the duo were not welcome, amid anger over the lack of consultation about a helicopter landing on a local football field, and wider demonstrations over William’s links to a conservation charity, which local residents are in dispute with.

In short, demonstrators told the Royal Family they were not welcome – and that’s a view that is shared by many across the region.

The Duke and Duchess subsequently cancelled their proposed visit to the village.

The optics of Prince William and Kate plus the perception of how ‘the Firm’ handled Harry and Meghan’s departure has had a negative impact on how the family is viewed in the Caribbean. 

And the reality is that the chickens have finally come home to roost as more countries recognise the benefits of emancipating themselves fully of the colonial legacies of the British empire in the years to come.

And no amount of Royal visits will change that.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts