Should we preserve some legacies of slavery?


Should we preserve some legacies of slavery?

Daive R Facey

Friday, June 26, 2020

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What rationale could there ever be for a mighty proud and free people, descendants of formerly enslaved Africans, to preserve any of the legacies and even some of the very means of oppression and dehumanisation of our ancestors?

I am not surprised at the move to remove from public spaces statues which honour former slave traders and imperialists. But what are the most prominent monuments, symbols, and traditions of slavery and colonialism? And, can we ever truly rid ourselves of the remnants or vestiges of our heritage?

In confronting our socio-economic and cultural challenges, or to truly tell our story, then we must have a clear understanding and acceptance of our heritage.

Since the arrival of the British in 1655 Jamaica's history can be categorised into three distinct periods — slavery (bondage and dehumanisation), colonialism (suppression and discrimination), and post-independence (discrimination and abuse).

The uncomfortable reality is our Jamaican society is indeed a legacy of slavery and colonialism and was founded and has been grounded throughout in oppression and widespread abuse of basic human rights. We, the people, are the most prominent of that legacy and have in many respects learnt well from our former slave masters, especially regarding discrimination and abuse.

The foundations, many institutions, and traditions of Jamaica reflect former British rule. English is our official language and Christianity creates Bible-based beliefs with proliferation of churches. Christianity and English were undeniably among the main means used to justify slavery and eradicate languages, religions, and traditions of Africans. But thousands of Jamaicans readily testify their greatest sense of emancipation and liberation, at least spiritually, began since fully accepting Christianity.

Should we abolish English and demolish churches? What about our constitution; Westminster parliamentary democracy; judiciary, Privy Council; Governor General's office; great houses; sugar plantation and factories producing world-class rums, delicacies of yellow yams, breadfruit, ackee, and salt fish; the Jamaica Constabulary Force, formed in 1867 after the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865 to suppress the masses; and The University of the West Indies, a world-class institution, established in 1948 as a university college to ensure elitist education, so our brightest and future leaders would be Europeanised; subtly and wisely “moulded'' into submission of British rule, hierarchy and racial superiority?

Our heritage is undeniably colourful and contradictory. Let's reduce then rid ourselves of the traditional discrimination and abuse which are still prevalent, reform where necessary education, judiciary and constabulary, and keep and bolster whatever advances equality, opportunities, and especially race relations.

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