Friday, 30 March 2007

Don’t apologies for the past, deal with the present.


There have been events this month to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of passing the “Abolition of the Slave Trade Act” by the British Parliament on 25th March 1807. The act only abolished the trading of slaves in the British Empire. A further 26 years passed before the “Slavery Abolition Act” was passed on 23 August 1833 outlawing slavery in the British Empire. Slaves in the British Empire were finally emancipated on 1st August 1834. The event is commemorated by the Gothic space rocket shaped, Buxton Memorial Fountain located, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament, in Victoria Towers Gardens.

There have been calls for the British Government to apologies for the slave trade. On behalf of who is it meant to apologies? Me, my ancestors?

It is not my intention to make any excuses for the slave trade, or in anyway deny or justify the appalling atrocities that were committed. But when considering whether the Government should apologies; the slave trade needs to be considered in the context of conditions existing at the start of the nineteenth century. What were my ancestors doing in 1800? Boys and girls as young as five years old, could be sitting in the dark breathing in coal dust for 18 hours each day, working as trappers, opening and closing the heavy ventilation doors underground in coalmines. Their father would probably be working at the coalface while their mother dragged the coal out in large pans. The slave trade helped to finance the Industrial Revolution. But British citizens were as much victims of the “Revolution” as were the slaves. It brought misery and a dramatic decline in both the quality of life and life expectancy to the vast majority of the populace. It would be an insult to the memory of my ancestors for the Government to apologies on their behalf for the Slave Trade.

Afro-Caribbean and African Americans view white people as the sole guilty party in the slave trade. But they were only the final link in the chain, their involvement starting at the coast of Africa. The slaves were brought to the coast by Africans. The Ashanti people, of modern day central Ghana, under the leadership of their Paramount King the Ashantihene were active participants in selling their enemies into slavery.

Let us not forget the atrocities of the past, but we need to focus attention on the present. It is estimated, worldwide at the start of the 21st century there were 27million slaves, twice the total number of slaves deported from Africa during the two centuries of the transatlantic slave trade. According to the International Labour Organization there are 246 million children engaged in exploitative child labour. About 1 million children, mostly girls, are exploited every year in the sex industry.

The two hundredth anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act should not be celebrated, while so many remain in servitude.

I finish by giving first hand account of modern day slavery. In a village midway between Kumasi and Ejisu in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. A Kumasi based lawyer represented a man from the Upper Northern Region of Ghana. Unfortunately the man couldn’t pay his fee, so he gave his 10 year old son to the lawyer to work off the debt. Thirty years later he still looks after the lawyers goats and lives in a little room, no larger than a cupboard. He will be relieved of the burden when the lawyer dies.

2 comments:

Oo I've had enough!!!! said...

Spot on! BEst I've read yet about it all.

Just a couple of thoughts-

I saw on TV a 'slave descendant' saying that we should apologise and compensate her, and that it didn't matter that it was in the past as we still benefitted from the trade.
And I thought, hang on, YOU live in this country, therefore YOU are benefitting from it too. Or am I mad?

Anyway, in her position I think I'd find any attempt at an apology really patronising. Well maybe that's just me.

Anyway as for the anniversary, I'm afraid I'm sick of hearing about it, and sick of us having to apologise for everything. I'm watching the Falklands anniversary closely- will we have to apologise for that one as well?

God forbid we be pleased for anything, like defending our own territories successfully.

WHy can people be patriotic and proud to be who they are, EXCEPT for if they're British? And especially not if they are English. Good grief!!!!!!!!

YesBut said...

Oyo I’ve had enough

I would like to apologies to you if my blog caused you or your family, or future members of your family (including their pets and neighbours - not forgetting the woman at the ASDA checkout), any offence. I stand contrite, and that’s not an easy thing to do at my age without artificial stimulation.