LET CENTURIES-OLD BYGONES BE?
On May 18, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized in Parliament for the way would-be Indian immigrants to Canada were treated in 1914.
Aboard the ship, which arrived off Vancouver, were 376 passengers, nearly all Sikhs seeking a new home in Canada. All were denied entry, according to one article, “due to the immigration laws at the time.”
The ship eventually returned to Calcutta, India.
For that racist travesty, and in issuing an official apology, Prime Minister Trudeau said, “As a nation we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community at the hands of the Canadian government of the day. “We failed them utterly,” the Prime Minister said.
Canada’s Sikh community graciously accepted the apology. But they asked the government to go a bit further by allowing the incident to be “mandatory teaching in Canadian schools…” In other words, a part of Canada’s story.
The prime minister’s apology was a counterbalance to a certain constituency of the day, which espoused a “Keeping this Whiteman’s country” ideology.
It’s important to note that 102 years later a Canadian Prime Minister apologized for an incident with clear racial undertones involving non-Europeans, not “Old Stock Canadians,” to quote former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Ironically, and to his credit, in 2008 he apologized for the same incident.
In the historic game of the powerful and powerless not all who have been historically wronged can expect an apology. Nevertheless, it’s good news whenever the descendants of those who have done historical wrongs (commit human transgressions, for example) can make amends by issuing public apologies to descendants of the victimized—no matter how trite and insincere they sometimes sound—It’s the morally correct thing to do. It also bodes well in these modern times in the continuing evolution of humankind. One can only hope…
That said, over the years I’ve heard apologies being made to people of different backgrounds for transgressions against them—their ancestors…
And I always wonder what is it about people of African descent, that seemingly white aversion to Black people that prevents them from summoning the courage and moral decency to say “Sorry” to Black people for those hundreds of years that were, and the 21st Century legacy… the deleterious social impact.
It’s akin (though incomparable) to America’s dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki then steadfastly refusing to make that historic apology to the Japanese people for one of the world’s historic, pernicious crimes against humanity: using nuclear weapons on human beings.
It’s much the same way leaders of the developed nations, including America, all of which were complicit in initiating the human and resource plundering of Africa continue to refuse to acknowledge… take responsibility for that unprecedented crime against humanity, slavery.
Is it their perception of real or imagined Black “weakness,” and that we’re lesser thans…?
On a visit to Jamaica last September, in a speech to the country’s parliament British Prime Minister David Cameron said “[…] no to slavery reparations.” And he urged Caribbean countries to “move on” from slavery.
By saying that he’s saying Africans across the Diaspora should just get on with our lives. As if that historical atrocity committed against African peoples is merely a figment of our collective imagination.
Such is the prevailing sentiment whenever the legitimate subject of slavery-reparations is broached in the capitols of those countries that played a role in, and benefited from African slavery, and continue to benefit from Africa’s resources—as recently, the resource and human drain…
Slavery, that scourge. Through some form of white magic, Europeans landed on Africa’s shores, and upon contact saw [Africa’s] gold and learned of other precious minerals inland, somehow convincing [some] Africans to round up their own people and bring them to the shores to be forcefully taken to the New World in the dark, ‘stank’ holes of boats for work in the New World.
Tens of millions died in transit (and were fed to the sharks during the long Atlantic crossing), and later on land while working the plantations of the New World – for free.
And something else troubles me about slavery. It’s akin to a ‘system’ of peonage, except that our ancestors were brought against their will to work, for free. So maybe because they didn’t pay for the multiple trips… in the pits of those boats sailing across the ocean there won’t be any reparations, no 40 acres and a mule, no apologies forthcoming.
Yes, the legacy of slavery continue to handcuff and strangle Black people, because generations… of those who benefitted—white men, powerbrokers—still think we’re not worthy of an apology, let alone requisite recompense for those hundreds of years of oppression.
We are descendants of slaves… owed nothing. Well, when the matter of slavery was discussed with David Cameron in Jamaica, he offered the Jamaican $25 million to modernize or build new prisons…
We are the Rodney Dangerfields of the world! Only because there are no cohesive and concerted efforts to once and for all take on this issue on a global level, leaders of the Diaspora on the same page, no allowances of any individual nations making “divide and conquer” side deals. A cultural predilection and weakness many contend.
The slave-runners and holders were probably thinking that subjecting us to sundry forms of dehumanization… would drain us of our will to withstand the compounded indignities of slavery.
They thought by now (since we have shed the manacles and chains) we would’ve buckled under the continuing unrelenting pressures slavery and become extinct (like some of the many species, and those living things that threatened).
Yet here we are, strong as ever, resilient, not yielding to the 21st Century pressures and various forms of oppression—including lethal, some say often illegal force, regularly brought to bear against us, especially Black males, 50% of the source of life and Black continuity, the preservation of the race. Believe it, there are nefarious, sinister, dark forces out there relishing our disappearance, their idea of our final solution…
So as descendants of the historically ‘wronged’ continue to get apologies for injustices… Black people, despite the horrific, indeed indescribable, system and indignities of slavery continue to stand by, anchoring the queue, awaiting our official [international] apology from governments around the world that benefited from Slavery.
We’re not going anywhere. When we’re gone others will take our place, and at some point some white political man or woman will have to… rise in the house of government, perhaps even at the United Nations and issue a genuine, heartfelt, solemn, sincere apology for that historic injustice and “crime against humanity” perpetrated against Africa and her great, great… grand children.
So what is it about Black people that prevents the white establishment from summoning the courage and moral decency and finally say to Black people across the Diaspora, sorry?
Nothing! They just do not see the need to. African people globally have no leverage—to force the matter. And as stated earlier we lack global cohesion.
Oh, when it comes to the matter of slavery and reparations, the beneficiaries: present day economic and political powerbrokers should research the history of that prestigious institution, Georgetown University, and suggestions of how it might come to terms with its tangible and lucrative connections to slavery and recompense for (descendants of) the slaves.
The subject was recently discussed on CBC Radio’s, the Current.