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  • Judy Ryde

The Case for Paying Reparations


read more ....... Richard Drax, the Member of Parliament for South Dorset in the UK, has recently inherited a huge plantation in Barbados where his forebears had many slaves. He still farms these lands.

According to a report in the Guardian on 13th December, Sir Hilary Beckles, the Barbadian historian of Barbados and vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, calls this plantation land ‘the killing fields’ and reports that tens of thousands of slaves had lived there in terrible conditions and often died prematurely and horribly. In fact, the wealth made in Barbadian sugar plantations, (and also earlier in Jamaica) gave him the ability to buy lands and property in the UK and he is the largest landowner in Dorset. Drax should certainly pay reparations which would go some small way towards making good his ancestors’ crimes. According to The Guardian, he has said that he ‘regrets what his ancestors did, but does not regard himself as responsible for something that happened so long ago’.

This is a common point of view but misses the point. We may not be personally responsible for actions taken by others, but we are responsible for benefitting by these actions. This is not only true of people like Drax, but of all Europeans who come from countries that carried out the slave trade. Huge wealth was created on the backs of African who were forcibly taken to America and the Caribbean. Enslaved people were bought and sold, whilst being treated worse than we would treat animals. The wealth created in those days has made our countries rich in global terms. We built on that wealth and are all still benefitting today. Even in these trying times, poorer countries struggle much more than do we.

Many of the black people now living in Europe, still suffer from racism which is responsible for their comparative poverty, and stems from the way that black people have been regarded over many centuries by Europeans. Even those of us who eschew racist attitudes can find racism built into our unconscious minds and is structured into society, as I have pointed out in other blogs and in my books. Reparation is something that governments should take very seriously, particularly as there is talk of ‘levelling up’ inequality at this time.

As for Richard Drax, he is an extremely wealthy man and his life style (and that of his family) would not be affected, even if he gave the whole estate with its magnificent plantation house called Drax Hall, to the people of Barbados. I recommend he does just that.

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