Letter: Those in denial about slavery are out of touch with its latter-day victims
FRIDAY, JUNE 22: ‘East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet’
— Rudyard Kipling (whom some called the prophet of Imperialism and British colonial expansion).
Kipling was right but only in the contexts in which he saw it.
There will always be a divide between those who support colonialism and its impact in history and remain even today in a state of denial, and those who quite clearly see themselves as being the victims and survivors of both slavery and colonialism.
I belong to the latter and quite clearly Mr Bob Stewart belongs to the former.
This is not to say that Mr Stewart supported colonialism or even slavery; I will give him the benefit of doubt at this point; but he certainly is in a state of denial with regard to the origins of modem capitalism and the role of slavery and colonialism in its development.
He has given me a number of books and sources which he suggest I read in an effort to convince me that ‘its wrong to suggest capitalism was built on slavery’ — though he makes no mention of colonialism.
However, in the spirit of that suggestion, I will return in kind by suggesting that he read the following: ‘How Europe Under-developed Africa’ by Rodney WaIter, Afro-Guyanese scholar, activist and author.
In this important work he discussed how the colonization of Africa undermined its potential for autonomous development.
Did Britain abolish slavery out of moral conscience in a spirit of altruism towards the suffering of fellow human beings?
The following book answers that question: ‘From Columbus to Castro ( The History of the Caribbean 1492-1969) by Eric Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago in the 1950s and 60s.
For over a hundred years or more, Britain benefitted from the Atlantic slave trade, engaging in the infamous Middle passage which began in England when a group of investors got together and out fitted a slave ship which then sailed for West Africa to pick up slaves.
The slaves were in the hold at the very bottom of the ship, chained together. Upon reaching the so-called New World with this human cargo, the investors sold them on the slave auction block, returning to England with a new cargo of sugar, tobacco, rum and cotton for sale.
This is where the investor got his return, which he in turn invested in the building of factories; those palatial estate homes which you can still see in the English countryside and made such British shipping ports like Liverpool rich; all creating wealth which went into the financing of the industrial revolution.
With the creation of Britain’s industrial economy, there arose the need to create markets in Britain’s colonies and slaves were better used to buy what was made in British factories.
Another factor which was very important — Britain’s European competitors still depended on the slave economies which they create in their colonies and it was in British interests to undermine those slave-dependent economies.
The impetus was commercial, not moral. There was an anti-slave movement in England but its influence never supplanted the hold that British plantation holders in the Caribbean held over the British parliament.
Two world wars weakened the European and British colonial system finally it was overturned.
Now the last shoe is been dropped with the Euro economic crisis; would Spain be in financial trouble if it still had its colonial empire in the so-called New World?
Portugal no longer has its African colonies to depend on. Now its professionals are becoming new immigrants to Brazil and to former African colonies like Angola and Mozambique to start a new life — but not as colonials.
Mr Stewart continues to talk down emerging countries but the west wants China and other new players in the world economy to invest in troubled western economies. When Bermudians fly out of here on Jet Blue they are flying on aircraft made in Brazil.
One important population milestone has just recently passed with hardly any notice; the leading western economy, the United States of America, the birth of non-white children has now outstripped the European majority.
What impact will a new non-white majority in the world’s most powerful nation have on the world? Will America look more and more like the world’s non-white majority?
Bob Stewart has seen these momentous events in his lifetime and certainly his great grandchildren, along with my grandchildren, will live in this new world.
It is no mystery why I have such a world view; I am a black man with a free black mind and the Bob Stewarts of the world will increasingly have to deal with such.