‘Are blacks not entitled to reparations?’
King Charles faces renewed push for reparative justice over slavery
King Charles III (left) and Steven Golding, President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

KINGSTON, Jamaica – President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Steven Golding, believes that Queen Elizabeth II's death has created a unique opportunity to the British monarchy to show leadership by acknowledging its involvement, and making a formal apology and perhaps begin to repair the damage wrought by its tacit involvement in the slave trade.

"It is necessary that we separate the person of the queen from the institution of the monarchy. I never met the queen personally but she has a family and so forth, and her history, those issues of personality have no place in the position that I feel Jamaicans should hold as regards the institution of the monarchy," he told OBSERVER ONLINE.

Golding pointed to the fact that the British monarchy played an active role in the creation of chattel slavery.

"It was the British monarchy that signed the charter to enslave Africans, it is the British Monarchy that formed the Royal African Company that profited in the trafficking and enslavement of Africans. It is the monarchy by association that collaborated and contributed to the kidnapping, the rape, the torture and the creation of chattel slavery," Golding said.

In 1660, the Royal African Company was established by the Duke of York, who later became James II, with involvement from his brother, Charles II. Historians say the profits of the slave trade funded the Treasury, as well as Britain's industries, buildings, railways, roads and parks. Many of the enslaved Africans transported by the Royal African Company were branded “DY”, to announce property owned by the Duke of York.

Still, Golding is not subscribing to any argument of 'queen-hating'.

"Slavery has existed in almost every human civilization, the British themselves were enslaved by the Romans at one point. Even the word slave comes from the term for Slavic people of Eastern Europe. Jamaicans don't need to despise or hate any British personality, it is the institution which has committed a crime against Africa, against the people of Africa so that is where we need to be absolutely clear," he said.

"We don't want people to simplify or dumb this down or place all our problems at the feet of a single person but we must address our issues to whether you call it, the figurehead or the symbol of the monarchy, the institution of the monarchy and that falls on the head or shoulder of whether it be Queen or King," Golding said.

History has documented that the royal family’s links date back to the 16th century. In 1562, Elizabeth I approved of the journey of John Hawkins, the first known English person to include enslaved Africans in his cargo. Later, Elizabeth I funded a vessel for another voyage by Hawkins in 1564.

Golding pointed to the fact that the dearly departed Queen is the 'second of her name'.

"Elizabeth the Second is of particular interest because she is the second Elizabeth to come to that throne and the first is the one who signed the charter with John Hawkins to explore the creation of the chattel slavery system, the trafficking of enslaved persons. I'm sure the Queen is a nice person as my father said in his article. She had four, five children, she is a mother and a grandmother, according to her, she loved Jamaica, but who doesn't love Jamaica?" Golding asked.

In an article published in the Jamaica Observer, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding said he had met the Queen on a number of occasions, both here in Jamaica, when she visited, and abroad.

"On two of those occasions I had the opportunity to converse with her. I was impressed not just with her charm and grace but with how engaging and down to Earth she was. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Kampala, Uganda, in 2007, as is customary, she held a reception for newly elected heads of Government. As we gathered around her, cocktails in hand, she mentioned, without any prompting from any aide, the number of times she had visited Jamaica and recalled in much detail what she considered to be the most memorable events of her visits. I was amazed. She made countless visits to several other countries and I wondered whether she had similar recollections of those," former PM Golding wrote.

However, even while acknowledging the warm personality of the late Queen, the younger Golding believes that her death nonetheless provides a unique opportunity to press ahead with claims of reparative justice.

"When we take issue, let us be clear, our issue is with King Charles the Third who now sits as the figurehead, Elizabeth the Second is dead, we don't need to waste time despising or hating her, we need to focus that energy in trying to rectify and seek reparative justice from the institution that has committed those crimes and continues to commit those crimes in being negligent in addressing, admitting, apologising, accepting those crimes that were committed and making amends," Golding said.

According to the Slave Voyages website, between 1672 and 1731 the Royal African Company transported more than 187,000 slaves from Africa to English colonies in North, Central and South America.

Veteran minister and MP Mike Henry has calculated that the United Kingdom should pay Jamaica £7.6 billion for the damage imposed on both the citizens and the country of Jamaica as a result of its slavery policy and colonisation of the country. Golding himself has called on the Jamaican Government to impose a reparation tax on tourists from countries with a history of trading slaves as chattel.

"There has to be reparations. There are no other indigenous people or otherwise in the world who have suffered such brutal crimes that the world seems intent on ignoring and not making restitution for. They made restitution to the Jews for the Holocaust which pales in comparison to the three centuries of trafficking and enslavement of Africans. They made restitution to the Native Americans, casinos were part of the reparatory process, and they became an economic reward to make amends for what was done. Reparations have been given to various people who have been wronged by colonialism and by European expansion in the West,” he said.

Golding pointed out that Japanese people who were imprisoned in North America during World War 2 for a period were given reparations, and that women who were prostituted by the Japanese in World War 2 were compensated.

"The real question is what is the difference when it comes to Africans, what's the difference when it comes to the oldest branch of the human family since modern science accepts that modern life began in Africa?" Golding asked.

"Are we not entitled to reparations? Can the world not admit that what was done during the TransAtlantic slave trade was so horrendous that restitution must be made. Even by their own laws, it is they who have declared slavery as a crime against humanity. It is they who have said that crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations, that means justice can be pursued perpetually until it is achieved," he intoned passionately.

Both the United States and the United Kingdom have made it clear that the respective countries will not be doling out billions of dollars to Jamaica but instead will help with education and infrastructure projects that can benefit the country.

CLAUDE MILLS , Observer Online writer

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