Saturday, June 22, 2024

Former British Colonies Press King Charles III For An Apology For Slavery And More

With the death of Queen Elizabeth II last September, Britain can pen a new chapter under King Charles III. Regarding the question of slavery reparations, will he do what his predecessors didn’t? Or will he turn a blind eye?

On May 6, at London’s Westminster Abbey, the king will be crowned in a lavish ceremony. It’s part of a centuries’ old tradition that some have denounced as ostentatious in the modern era.

Critics of the Windsors fall into two categories: First, there are British citizens who question why their tax dollars should go towards supporting such a privileged family, while they themselves can barely cover their own bills. Then there are those from former British colonies in the Americas, Africa, and elsewhere, who point out the monarchy’s imperialist nature.

Which Nations Are Calling For The Reparations?

Several indigenous groups and advocacy organizations penned a statement, and sent it to Charles himself. They hail from the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada and a host of other nations.

The letter says in part: “we, the undersigned, call on the British Monarch, King Charles III, on the date of his coronation being May 6, 2023, to acknowledge the legacy of genocide and colonization of the indigenous and enslaved peoples of Antigua and Barbuda, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.”

The authors indicated they were working diligently to address the inequities directly linked to British colonization. They pointed out that the United Nations “rightly recognized colonialism, racism and slavery as crimes against humanity.”

The group demands the return of “cultural treasures and artifacts stolen from our peoples” when the British empire was at its height.

Some Americans polled by Newsweek also believe that Charles should, at the very least, issue an apology for slavery. But not by huge numbers- just 35% of 1,500 adults. Twenty seven percent said an apology was unnecessary, 17% percent said they weren’t sure and the remaining 22% were indifferent.

Some Academics Have Chimed In On The Subject

Historians and academics of all colors have spoken on the devastating effects of colonization, which are palpable even today.

Kate Williams, a professor of modern history at Reading University, pointed out that Britain didn’t exactly gain its riches and vast power through honorable means.

“Do we acknowledge empire?” she asked. “Or do we carry on with the idea of fair play and railways and that, you know, British influence is always benevolent?”

When Charles’ eldest son, William, embarked on a royal tour of the Caribbean and Central America, the reception wasn’t as warm as he might have expected. Cynthia Barrow-Giles, a professor at the University of the West Indies, wasn’t surprised. She called the tour “disturbingly self-serving.”

Journalist Barbara Blake- Hannah mentioned that her native Jamaica is gradually losing its affinity for the British royals, especially now that Elizabeth II is no more.

“God save the king doesn’t fall from Jamaican lips so easily,” Blake-Hannah wrote for The Guardian. “Soon, we’ll be a republic.”

An Apology Is One Thing, But What About Concrete Action?

If Charles decides to apologize for slavery, he won’t be the first high-profile person in Europe to do it.

In 2022, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said the sin of slavery can never be erased, during his speech at The Hague. Like Britain, Holland enjoyed enormous prosperity through that very institution. Rutte apologized on behalf of his nation, but made it clear his government wouldn’t be issuing reparations to descendants of slaves.

Instead, according to AP News, Rutte, “is establishing a 200 million-euro ($212 million) fund for initiatives to help tackle the legacy of slavery in the Netherlands and its former colonies, and to boost education about the issue.”

If King Charles III apologizes, will he simply do that and move on? Or, will he endorse giving back to the Black and brown-majority nations that suffered under Britain’s boot?

Time will tell.


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