JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Jamaicans urged to educate themselves about reparation
  • Enslaved people have been misrepresented and that past injustices continue to blight the development of the Caribbean
  • Reparation includes a long-term commitment to stabilise and compensate those who were oppressed

Chairperson of the National Commission on Reparations (NCR), Professor Verene Shepherd, is urging Jamaicans to educate themselves about reparation, as the country continues to suffer from the legacies of slavery.

“Slavery is not too remote in the past for it to have contemporary relevance. The relationship between historical injustices, persistent poverty, and diminishing opportunities and development are poorly understood by too many Jamaicans. Yet such relationship looms larger than ever before as a primary obstacle to development,” she stated.

Professor Shepherd, who was speaking at a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank at the agency’s head office in Kingston on July 31, stated that enslaved people have been misrepresented and that past injustices continue to blight the development of the Caribbean.

“We have created some of the problems in our country, but our underdevelopment has to do with the extraction of the country’s resources, the development and refusal of Europe to talk to us about how they can ensure that this crime will never occur again and that they will repair the damage done,” she stated.

Professor Shepherd further informed that the profits derived from Britain’s participation in the Translantic Trade in Africans continues to enrich the economic development of Britain, which is evident in the country’s infrastructure.

She emphasised that a call for reparation includes a long-term commitment to stabilise and compensate those who were oppressed and subordinated by the dominant colonial powers.

“Reparation is a human rights issue that rests on legal grounds. It has always been conceived as a way to redress wrongs, current or historic, to bring about peace and reconciliation,” she highlighted.

She informed that ethnic groups and countries including Germany, Kenya and Haiti received reparations in the past for wrongs that were committed against them.

In 1992, the World Jewish Congress in New York announced that the newly unified Germany was to pay compensation totalling $63 million, to 50,000 Jews, who had suffered Nazi persecution.

Professor Shepherd highlighted that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is supporting the reparation movement and has proposed to establish a commission to look at cases for compensation.

However, she pointed to the need for public education, because “people are distant from the past and do not feel a connection to the people for whom we are struggling.”

She highlighted that the NCR is increasing public education by conveying its message through the media and is also seeking to increase face-to-face communication.

Lecturer of political philosophy and culture at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr. Clinton Hutton, who was also at the Think Tank, stated that  “if we are to walk through the passage that our ancestors walked we need to educate ourselves.”

He said that ideologies reflecting racism that were developed by the Europeans have been incorporated into the social teachings of society.

“Europeans developed a view of physicality, thick skull and broad bone, arguing that black people were capable of carrying loads. They argued that black people were capable of working hard in the tropics. These are racist ideologies that we want to no part of,” Dr. Hutton said.