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Slavery days

Alistair Burnett Alistair Burnett | 15:39 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2007

Over the past fortnight there have been many commemorative events around the country and abroad to mark the bi-centenary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire and the BBC has given extensive coverage to them both in news and documentary programmes.

The World TonightThis has not been universally popular with audiences - there have been accusations that the BBC has taken a position on issues such as whether there should be an apology - though it's not clear who would apologise to who - or whether descendents of slaves should be paid reparations in some form.

A lot of the audience were telling us slavery is in the past and should stay there, that there is no need for apologies or reparations and some told us to stop flagellating ourselves. Here are a couple of examples.

    So the self-loathers at the BBC are having a great time this week. It seems the dg's idea of heaven is to be horse whipped by a black man… The Europeans simply cashed in on a trade which was well established in Africa.
    There's been very little coverage about Africa's involvement with the slave trade… Total PC nonsense.

The BBC has had a lot of programming around this anniversary both in news programmes such as The World Tonight and there have been seasons of programmes on networks like Radio 4.

Few would argue that it was not an important moment in the history of Britain, and also that it marked the beginning of the end of the enslavement of Africans by Europeans and Americans; it was also an important moment in the development of what are known today as human rights.

In this sense, the BBC did make an editorial judgement that it was an important anniversary to mark, but it is important to remember that the commemorative events by governments, local authorities, museums, etc, were not been run by the BBC and we were - along with other broadcasters and newspapers - covering them as news events.

On The World Tonight, our coverage has focussed not on the history of slavery, but on the survival of practices today which are basically forms of enslavement, such as bonded child labour in India.

Indeed a report by our Delhi Correspondent, Damian Grammaticas, this Wednesday (listen here) provoked an interesting debate in our editorial meetings. His report, which focussed on a boy who was working as a bonded labourer ended with the boy being freed from that bonded labour, but faced with an uncertain future, because it was unclear how his family would make ends meet without the low wages he was paid.

Some of us believe we had become too involved in the story and our reporting had led to significant changes in this boy's life and we should have stuck to traditional neutral reporting.

The dilemma faced by our correspondent was that once the boy's case was brought to the attention of the authorities in the course of his investigation into what under Indian law is illegal, the boy could not continue working in the workshop he was bonded to, and the alternative to continuing with the investigation would have been to drop it.

So what would have been more honourable? To not report on an illegal practice that enslaves many children, or to report on it and cause a change in a child's life that leaves him with an uncertain future.

Our correspondent will also follow up on the story, partly out of human interest, but also to see if the local authorities fulfil their responsibility to help his rehabilitation.

It seems there is no consensus on this among journalists on the ethics of this and I'm not sure what the audience think, although we had some e-mails offering to help the boy featured in the report.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 04:37 PM on 30 Mar 2007,
  • Madeup wrote:

"Few would argue that it was not an important moment in the history of Britain"

Maybe so, but I would say the Act of Union was an even more important moment, given that it brought the nation of Britain into existence. And yet that anniversary, in January of this year, was pointedly ignored by the BBC.

Why would that be, I wonder?

  • 2.
  • At 04:50 PM on 30 Mar 2007,
  • Dr Anjana Patel wrote:

Much has been said that this 'celebration' of the passing of an act by the British government to end slavery has a lot to do with ending modern day slavery such as child bonded labour in India. However what is remarkable about all the media coverage is the total absence of any mention of the fact that the passing of the act to end slavery of Africans was also the starting point of slavery by a different name i.e Indentured or bonded labour which still exists today.

The British played a huge roll in substituting African slaves with indentured/bonded labour from India. Britain continued to benefit economically after the abolition of slavery act by using 'slave labour' under a different name. That is why there are people of Indian origin in countries which were in some way connected to the British Empire all round the world. The building of the railways such as the one connecting Mombasa in Kenya through to Lake Victoria was build by indentured labourers from North West India under very harsh conditiond. Many did not survive to return to India. Similarly there are many decendents of Indian indentured labourers who worked on the plantations in the West Indies and were never able to 'earn' their return passage to India. The people of Indian origin in Fiji are another example.

The use of indentured labour from India by the British is well documented. See:

1. Indentured Labour in the British Empire 1834-1920. Routledge (ISBN 10 070992321X; ISBN 13 9780709923213).

2 http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/post/misc/colonial/bibl.html
3. http://teaching.arts.usyd.edu.au/history/hsty3083/seminars/s/week5.html

The siginificant involvement of the British in replacment of old type of slavery with a new type of slave labour (under the name of indentured or bonded labour)should at least be acknowledged by the BBC in its coverage of this year's 'celebrations'.


  • 3.
  • At 06:10 PM on 30 Mar 2007,
  • Davidson Delsol wrote:

Your coverage of slavery has been very deceiving & has painted a picture that England abolished slavery & the reason why it was abolished also has been lost in your interpretation I hope when slavery is studued in your education system they will tell the truth and not try and compare the torture & murder of millions with todays slaves.Remember all anglo american black people today are still branded by their name which was given to them by there slave masters, there language which was eradicated from them There faith which was forced on them
Who really 'abolished' the slave trade and slavery ?
There is a huge amount of confusion about 2007 and
its relation to 1807. Its almost as if people are being
brainwashed to believe something that is patently
not true.

First we should make it very clear that the abolition of
slavery did not take place in 1807. 1807 was merely
the
British legal abolition of their trade in human beings
across the Atlantic. Many people are going around
talking about how slavery was abolished by the
British in 1807 and isn’t that wonderful . Well that is
simply not true.

As for the focus on Mr Wilberforce, what were those
millions of Africans doing over the centuries -chilling
out in the crib drinking Red Stripe, slamming
dominoes
in the rum shop, going to raves ??? Did they just
jump
on those ships and enjoy the 'cruise' ? Who were the
real abolitionists ?

“African freedom fighters involved in a relentless
number of uprisings leading to the deaths of
thousands of slavers were the first to
form ‘abolitionist’ movements that fought to
eradicate enslavement and stop the trafficking of
Africans throughout their sphere of influence. In
1791, as a direct result of African insurrections
against European enslavers, Haiti was the first
country
in the Caribbean to end African enslavement.
Meanwhile Denmark, as Lord Gifford highlighted in
the
House of Lords in 1996, was the first European nation
to instigate the abolition of trafficking of African
people although this was limited to the Madeira. In
1794, the French National Convention abolished
slavery in all its territories although this law was
repealed by Napoleon in 1802. Up until this date the
British had rejected all calls for abolition.”

The British did not get around to abolishing slavery
itself until 1838 but even then there was a catch -

“Britain continued to play an active role in the Maafa
after 1807. After the passing of the 1807 act the
attacks against enslaved Africans by British slavers
increased in their ferocity. It was not until 1833 that
Britain passed the Abolition of Slavery Act and 1838
when it abolished the patronising and
dehumanising “apprenticeship” scheme for formerly
enslaved Africans and replaced it with colonisation;
the process of enslaving whole nations of people in
their own land rather than kidnapping people from
their land and enslaving them in foreign territory.”

“ The true injustice of this situation is highlighted by
the fact that whilst the British government passed
the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act, which proclaimed
an end to British slavery, the British created a
system of forced labour called ‘apprenticeship’ for
enslaved Africans. This insulting process ultimately
helped to fund the £20 million compensation (£1.4
billion when converted in current monetary terms)
paid not to enslaved Africans and their families but to
British slavers.

This moral impropriety affected all of
the UK’s major institutions with even the Church
implicated when the Bishop of Exeter received over
£12,000 pounds for the six hundred enslaved Africans
his estate held in captivity.”

So when people start mentioning reparations and
brainwashing it is worth considering these points
which are only a few of many.

  • 4.
  • At 06:22 PM on 30 Mar 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

What tripe!
I saw the report about the Indian boy on BBC television.

"So what would have been more honourable? To not report an illegal practice that enslaves many children or to report on it and cause a change in a child's life that leaves him with an uncertain future?"

All slaves have uncertain futures...once they are freed. What happened to BBC's moral compass, the one which condemns the torture of Al Qaeda terrorists in GITMO to extract information about WMD attacks being planned in American cities? Cat got your tongue BBC? Where is the moral outrage you so vehemently displayed at the invasion of Iraq to overthrow the mass murderer Saddam Hussein when this violation of international law comes to light? Where are those BBC reporters now? Where are those MPs like George Halloway? Who wants to bet at least some of them are in London's fashionable silk shops spending thousands of pounds to buy the product of the boy's labor for which he was paid nothing never dreaming to pay an extra twelve pounds to pay off the debt he himself did not incur but for which he was indentured for life? How is it possible NOT to have contempt for BBC if you have even the slightest shred of conscience at all? Leave him to continue to be a slave for the rest of his life by being silent about the criminals who imprison him? Perhaps those in BBC who think so should spend a couple of his 12 hour days at his loom. Conspiracy to aid and abet crimes against humanity. If there were such a charge, BBC should be in the defendant's dock at the ICC. BBC has no right to condemn anyone. Besides, that is not its job to begin with. Yes the boy's life has changed as the story showed, changed for the better by being in school where he belongs. How about a follow-up crusade to free the rest of them BBC or are you afraid you will eventually be thrown out of India the way you were thrown out of Zimbabwe? Do you think the Indian government is any less ruthless or protective of its corruption? Why not leave the dealing with the world's most violent criminals like Al Qaeda, the Palestinian Authority, and Iran's government to the US, British, and Isreali governments and go find some of these small time criminals on your own? Do something worthwhile for a change.

  • 5.
  • At 06:42 PM on 30 Mar 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

I think Martin Rowson's cartoon in the Guardian this past week makes the point better than I ever could. It emphasises that saying 'sorry' for slavery, while welcome, is easier than addressing the issues of poverty pay in developing countries and appalling conditions for cockle-pickers from China in the UK.

By all means educate people about the abolition of slavery 200 years ago, but we also need more teaching of African history generally. Both its tribal background, the colonial period and right up to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and the state of modern day Zimbabwe.

By all means go and see the film 'Amazing Grace', but make sure you also see 'The Last King Of Scotland' and 'Catch a Fire', the excellent new film by Phillip Noyce to get a wider picture of "man's inhumanity to man".

  • 6.
  • At 07:41 PM on 30 Mar 2007,
  • PeeVeeAh wrote:

There is a great (tabloid?) danger that the institutional enslavement of millions - ending two centuries ago - is being compared directly with child labour still extant.

I watched the recent coverage of the child's case and saw that it was to some degree an 'underground' type of abuse, whereas the enslavement and transportation of whole populations was the 'crime against humanity' technically ended in the UK 200 years ago. That was perpetrated by governments and largely supported by Christian 'ownership' of the people brought here. The modern-day case in Asia is important, but is not on the scale of the historical abuse.

Having said that, there is no purpose in a modern-day population making apologies to modern-day descendents that are eight generations on from the crime! That is carrying retentiveness too far! There should be unanimous condemnation of the era that ended then - that is certain. More importantly, there must be unanimity in the knowledge that such theft of human beings must never happen again. Ever!

The situation of child labour can be unearthed if there is a will of governments to do so. Abolition of slavery in the UK was a quantum leap! The two issues don't compare.

  • 7.
  • At 09:52 PM on 30 Mar 2007,
  • John Smith wrote:

I do not envy anyone who has to make a decision on whether to make or broadcast a report on a sensitive issue, and slavery is unquestionably a sensitive issue. What's more, such issues will turn even the most timid and quiet of people into a verbal lion.


Should the news be broadcast under such conditions? It is still news and the BBC shows news. That should be sufficient for anyone. However, there is another side - if an issue is that sensitive and that provocative, it is more important that it be covered, not less, though extra care needs to be taken to not seek to provoke resentment (which achieves nothing) but to provoke thought and discussion.


Notice I said not to seek to provoke resentment. On any uncomfortable issue, resentment and hostility is inevitable. Don't run away from it, but don't feed it either.


On to the matter of slavery. It still exists in the world and (although illegal) it still exists in Britain. If I recall correctly, British police now provide all kinds of witness protections and amnesties to slaves who escape from human traffickers and slave-staffed operations.


Slavery from Africa may no longer exist, and we can probably draw inspiration from those who worked hard to destroy that branch of such a perverted industry, but one branch is just one part of this malignant tree that still exists. From the standpoint of confronting our attitudes, such news is vital.


Then there is the historical perspective. Our culture - any culture - is shaped by the past. You lose the past, you lose the culture. It's very simple. Actively working to remember the good, the bad and the downright ugly is what keeps that culture alive. Or did you think it just chance or for gory amusement that myths, legends, rhymes and festivals in Britain are entirely sufficient to teach the major events of the past 1,500 years, possibly 2,500?


If you want the British to remain British, if you want immigrants to understand what being British means - and why, then remembering how we got here (and why) is the single-most important thing anyone can do.

  • 8.
  • At 12:15 AM on 31 Mar 2007,
  • John Williams wrote:

The slave trade was wrong. Completely wrong. However, it boils my blood to hear anyone apologise on my behalf.

I was born in 1981. How dare anyone speak on my behalf? I was in no way involved in the slave trade; nor did I benefit from it. Clearly it was wrong, but to blame the current generation is almost as stupid as compensating the descendants of slavery.

  • 9.
  • At 01:16 AM on 31 Mar 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

I honestly don't see what all this deeply simplistic self-flagellation from the 'hideously white' BBC will possibly solve. Is it going to stop the seemingly perpetual atrocities in many parts of Africa today, more often than not carried out for tribal reasons by so-called governments or countrymen of the victims? Will it offer much-needed opportunities to young black males on deprived inner London estates to give them a hope in hell of steering clear of gang culture? Or is it simply going to pour fuel on old hatreds, and resurrect out-of-date stereotypes from an era long gone and one which cannot and should not be judged against a modern moral framework?

By all means, commemorate the 200-year anniversary as any other historical event (although I share the concern of some black commentators that far too much historical backslapping seems to be being bestowed on the white abolitionists, and not enough credit given to the impact of slave resistance) and highlight the worldwide injustices of modern forms of 'slavery' - of which we should all be made aware. But as per usual, the BBC seems to be taking its own rather condescending moral line, which is once again very close to the official position of the Blair government, and in doing so attempting to skew the agenda - in this case towards garnering support for some form of official apology and financial reparations, an outcome which (as many have pointed out, on HYS and elsewhere) borders on the ridiculous when you consider all the groups and nationalities who could consider themselves 'wronged' or who've suffered aggression throughout human history. As a red-headed Nordic type, no doubt I should be able to sue the French (who invaded after the Vikings) but then, by that logic the native Britons could seek compensation from me, and so it goes on. Please draw a line, preferably somewhere this side of the completely ridiculous.

Still, I suppose we should thank the BBC editors etc who've decided that this topic deserves Auntie's standard saturation coverage over a period of several weeks - at least it's given us all a temporary respite from the familiar Beeb staples of child obesity, dog obesity, man-made climate change, CO2 emissions, Iraq and oh yes, did I happen to mention obesity? In the post-Hutton era, the BBC is becoming more of a propaganda organisation with every day that goes by, letting Blair's spin doctors dictate the news agenda, toeing the Government line on the big issues and diverting our attention from many others with ever greater levels of meaningless fluff (the entire Breakfast programme for one thing). It's a deeply depressing situation for someone who believes that public broadcasting should exist to offer some sort of thinking alternative to the commercial mainstream.

  • 10.
  • At 02:41 AM on 31 Mar 2007,
  • Andrew Smith wrote:

"Not been universally popular"? Be honest, it's been almost universally unpopular with the general public. Probably because we object to the subtext that we should apologize for what we didn't do.

Regarding the Indian kid. Why not report, and and financially remunerate him/his family - £1,000?

  • 11.
  • At 02:42 AM on 31 Mar 2007,
  • J M Deene wrote:

I thought there were huge problems with the BBC's coverage of this event; as if the BBC had taken leave of its senses and had a Diana moment.

The event commemorated was the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and yet the output of the BBC was slanted towards slavery itself and how awful the British were for ever doing it.

It's certainly true: we were awful for participating in the slave trade. But the crucial thing is we noticed that fact long before any other major power did.

After British abolition, we persuaded Portugal and Spain to end the slave trade in their colonies (we paid them) and took military action against countries who refused. It was a shame the BBC chose not to educate us on these facts and instead focused on how awful we are.

I was in America a few years ago during their Martin Luther King Day; they were effectively celebrating the fact they abandoned racial segregation forty years ago!

If they can celebrate such a modest achievement, why can't the BBC let us celebrate one of our country's achievements without spiking it?

I would have liked to have seen more balance between the realities of the slave trade and the accomplishment of our country in ending it.

Judging by your post, other people would have liked this balance too.

  • 12.
  • At 07:51 AM on 31 Mar 2007,
  • Bryan wrote:

Your reporting on the slavery issue demonstrates yet again that you follow the narrowest of narrow agendas. Why, for example, does the BBC steer so carefully clear of slavery, past and present, practiced by Muslims?

Well, if you can't or wont open the debate because of your enslavement to PC the bloggers will do it for you and you will become irrelevant. That'll be about time.

  • 13.
  • At 03:57 PM on 31 Mar 2007,
  • atlanta wrote:

I agree with your critics.
Your actions may be responsible for creating more hardship in the boys/his family's life.

While the subject is informative it is also half-hearted. Half-steps at best. Im tempted to reiterate most hardships are directly a result of past imperialism-but you've probably heard it all be4.

You, not you personally,-and most journalists lack creativity. With all your resources you still fail to satisfy the masses. Ironic how most of the Non-western world chooses it's third world media for truthful and COMPLETE reporting. Case in point, Al-Jazeera-The BBC(CNN) of the Arabs. But you prob already knew i'd use that one.

  • 14.
  • At 04:02 PM on 31 Mar 2007,
  • atlanta wrote:

You could have done it without using Identifing details. And if you couldn't, even an amateur wannabe journalist could have found a way to get the point and info across with compromising another's situation.

It seems, you don't really care about the child or his nation or even the story. Was it an ego thing?...good luck with the award.

  • 15.
  • At 11:14 PM on 31 Mar 2007,
  • martha rosler wrote:

i listened to a good bit of your end-of-slavery coverage and i found it very important. I am disgusted by people who feel they "understand" everything about slavery by noting that slavery was not invented by the West. They show no comprehension of either their own purported morality or of social processes--such as how the institution changed when the slave trade became big business and the slaves essentially import-commodities that could be cheaply and easily replaced.
Those who believe there is 'nothing to apologise for' similarly fail to note what portion of their country's own wealth was generated by the slave trade and do not realise the importance of recognising the continuity of a society even if none of us now living was involved in something as pernicious as the slave trade.
I also think the discussion of present day slavery & bonded labour was essential.

  • 16.
  • At 01:27 AM on 01 Apr 2007,
  • Malcolm Parker wrote:

The case of bonded child labour in India today has parallels with that of those born of slave parents in the 18th and 19th century. It is inexcusable to allow 'an uncertain future of the family' to pass as justification for inaction or merely neutral comment. Bonded child labour is a form of entrapment, which we must not tolerate in a world where food and shelter should be plentiful and people such as Barclay's Bob Diamond are said to 'earn' £420,000 every week. The BBC should be putting such obscene inequalities to the forefront of it's coverage in this year rather than pussyfooting around and listening to the moans and grumblings of those ignorant enough to brush off our own sickening role in the slave trade as a dim memory best forgotten.

  • 17.
  • At 02:21 AM on 01 Apr 2007,
  • Patricia wrote:

It is difficult to see value in paying reparations to descendants of slaves (do we know for certain who they are?) who never experienced their forefathers injustice. However, if an act of contrition is desired, providing opportunities (i.e. education, low-interest loans, etc.) to descendants who are in current financial/economic straits might fit the bill.
In response to the dilemma experienced by Damian's reporting of child labor in India, his intentions were honorable. Follow-up will help ensure the boy gets the needed help either from the Indian gov't and/or
from the kindness of readers like those who want to contribute...has a fund been established for the boy?

  • 18.
  • At 09:58 AM on 01 Apr 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Its funny becuase in many ways the situation with slavery is the same as it is today.

Before as in your quote europe and the U.S merely cashed in on the already established trade in africa.

And today europeans and americans 'cash in' on the already established slave trade in these countries by the desire to buy cheap goods.

Not just sweat shops in india with complete slavery but just the exploitation of workers everywhere ie: chinese people making computer componants etc.

So the point is how is today any different? How are we any more guilty?

So effectively this is very like the drugs trade.

So who is more guilty? Those dealing the drugs? (third world slavery) or those desireing to purchase them giving them value? (westerners).

In short we should not apologise for anything.

I hope readers are aware that a number of African organisations in Britain are not in favour of the commemoration, because in their view 1807 was of no particular significance to Africans. This is because although the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolished the British trans-Atlantic trafficking of Africans to the 'new world', it did not abolish slavery nor free enslaved Africans.


Those in the 'new world' remained enslaved, and continued to endure the
horrors and cruelties of slavery. Children born to them increased the
numbers of enslaved Africans, and they could still be 'sold' raped, tortured and separated from their families. In addition, Africans living in Britain who had bought
their freedom still run the risk of being kidnapped and sent to the new
world as 'slaves'.

There has been so much misinformation about the 1807 Act that a large section the general public and a section of the press seem to think that the Act abolished slavery. Indeed a section of the press wrongly refers to the commemoration as marking the abolition of slavery.


They appear unaware that the abolition of Slavery Act was not passed until 1833, and even then not all Africans were emancipated. Those over the age of six remained under forced apprenticeship (another form of slavery) for a further four years! The slave owners received £20,000,000 compensation, and the enslaved Africans received nothing.


Many Africans believe that it is a travesty that rather than highlighting African freedom fighters, the commemoration is largely focusing on William Wilberforce, who argued against the immediate abolition of slavery. A little research will indicate that as late as 1824, Wilberforce opposed the likes of Elizabeth Heyrick who argued for the immediate, not gradual abolition of slavery. Africans are of the view that it is a travesty that African resistance to slavery has been largely ignored, and that African abolitionists like Olaudah Equiano and Cugoano in Britain, and freedom fighters such as Nana of the Maroons in Jamaica, Toussaint L’Ouverture in Haiti, and Sam Sharp in Jamaica to name a few have been largely overlooked.

Lastly, it is interesting the way the media is quick to point out that slavery still exists, and focuses on bonded servitude. One wonders whether the media will mark the Jewish holocaust by focusing on genocides around the world, and the sufferings of Palestinians.
You are welcome to log on www.newafricanperspective.blogspot.com for further information.

  • 20.
  • At 10:28 AM on 02 Apr 2007,
  • Joseph, Maastricht, The Netherlands wrote:

This is a very emotive topic, I agree that Britain was wrong to be involved in the slave trade, I doubt anyone thinks differently.

However, issuing an apology does not serve any purpose, the UK is now a multi-cultural society, celebrating 200 years since the end of slavery is a good thing, it helps to bring attention to ongoing slavery, but that is where it should stop.

It is not acceptable to focus just on Britain's role in the slave trade, what about Arabs, Africans etc who also were involved, I see no balance in the BBC reporting about their actions.

To my mind, I find it ludicrous that people are asking for compensation, do we not already spend billions of pounds on investment and aid to Africa?.

The BBC is in a difficult position, however, it must try and be fair in it's reporting, it must accept that people do not wish to apologise for something that they had no involvement in.

I read the HYS about slavery and it is clear that although people are not proud of Britain's role, they are also not happy that our Government has apologised for the sins of our ancestors.

Living in the Netherlands, I can assure you that most of my colleagues view the UK as the least racist country in Europe, and also feel that the UK is the most Politically Correct country which they find amazing.


This is in response to Mr.Maastricht.

Are you saying that an apology isn't important? Many stomachs were feed, and many a mansion was built on the backs of people that were bought and sold. Well, i guess you're correct. Why should a white person apologize for getting a 200 yr. head start ? My bad!

In terms of compensation, the verdicts still out! How better a way to say sorry? Didn't the jews get reparations? hmm.Think so. You say that they already sent billions to Africa. I wonder how many billions of pounds did they make from the slavetrade? (more than 200 years worth)Do the math!

We haven't even talked about what slavery does to a mindset.

Now mr. Maastricht, if those tables were turned......

  • 22.
  • At 05:01 PM on 10 Apr 2007,
  • missess wrote:

to long .. shorten it down!!!!!

  • 23.
  • At 05:53 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • Grab wrote:

I'm saying that an apology isn't relevant here, any more than the Danes should apologise for Viking raids. And as for a "white person" getting a headstart, my ancestors at that time were Scottish crofters on one side and poor Londoners on the other side - no-one handed any of the proceeds of that income to my family. If you want "compensation", sure, ask for more aid to go to Africa where people are still affected by the disastrous partition of colonies. But "compensation" to the black kids in the same class as me, simply for being black? I don't think so.

  • 24.
  • At 08:46 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • James, Maastricht, The Netherlands wrote:

Dear Tiray,

Firstly, you have taken out of context my entire point, the editors blog is about apologising for something that happened 200 years ago.

I was not born then and neither were you, it is not for me to apologise for things done by people who I do not know & have no connection to.

For the record, I am Irish, so according to your view I should also be asking English people to apologise for what happened in Ireland, I do not because no-one is alive who is responsible.

I also do not because to mind, it would be a form of rascism to do so, if I did I would be classing all English people as being responsible which is obviously not true, therefore, to my mind for the Government to apologise is also wrong.

In my post, I make it very clear that the slave trade was wrong, and that it is something that nobody can take pride in, however, I would like you to explain to me where we draw the line?, do we draw the line at Italians for the Roman Empire?, Mongolian Empire?,Turkey for the Ottaman Empire?, Iran for the Persian Empire?, Egypt?, the list is endless yet all used slave labour?.

  • 25.
  • At 12:42 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

"21. At 03:59 AM on 08 Apr 2007, tiray wrote:

In terms of compensation, the verdicts still out! How better a way to say sorry? Didn't the jews get reparations? hmm.Think so."

The Jews who got reparations were the actual victims. If there are former slaves of the British Empire living today then I would agree that they should get compensation. However, they are long dead.

If you are going to try and make a comparassion at least compare like to like.

  • 26.
  • At 01:29 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Laura wrote:

"Are you saying that an apology isn't important? Many stomachs were feed, and many a mansion was built on the backs of people that were bought and sold."

What people have been saying is that people generations away from the actual atrocities apologising to people also generations away from the victims is pointless. Are the nordic countries going to apologise to the British for the kidnapping and enslaving carried out by the Vikings? I haven't noticed the Italians apologising for the Roman slave trade, have you?

"In terms of compensation, the verdicts still out! How better a way to say sorry? Didn't the jews get reparations? hmm.Think so."

The reparations to the jews were to those actually personally affected, not generations after the event. The situation isn't comparable.

  • 27.
  • At 01:33 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • bjfs wrote:

I agree with Maastricht and totally disagree with tiray. Apologising for something that happened 200 years ago is completely pointless and as for compensation the compensation culture we have today is bad enough but starting to compensate for historical injuries takes it to a new absurd level. If we follow this logic can I sue the British Government for the following?

1/ My ancestors having their property confiscated by the British Government in Ireland
2/ My ancestors in Ireland being left to starve during the potato famine in 1845
3/ My ancestors in Scotland being tortured and having their homes burned after the 1745 rebellion

Bad things happened in history. If those who perpetrated them are alive then by all means bring them to justice. If not learn the lessons and move on.

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