Reparations for past wrongs against humanity deal with the excesses of the past in the inhuman and often brutal treatment of others. From slavery and colonialism to forced removal and genocide, the injustices inflicted upon marginalized communities have had far-reaching consequences that continue to be felt today. Despite reconciliation and progress toward greater equality, the legacy of these past injustices persists in many forms, including persistent poverty, intergenerational trauma, and ongoing systemic discrimination. As a result, there is a growing recognition of the need for reparation and redress for past wrongs to ensure a more just and equitable future for all.
Reparation for past wrongs refers to making amends for past crimes against humanity, particularly those inflicted upon marginalized groups such as indigenous peoples and descendants of slaves.
We can no longer afford to take that which was good in the past and call it our heritage, to discard the bad and think of it as a dead load which byitself time will bury in oblivion…This is the reality in which we live.
Reparations are not new and have been discussed and debated for many years. Recently, there have been several instances where reparation has been proposed or implemented in different parts of the world. In Canada, the federal government settled a historic $2 billion lawsuit by 365 first nation for “Cultural Genocide at Canadian Residential Schools.” The funds will address long-standing issues such as clean water, housing, and education for Indigenous peoples. This investment is seen as a step towards reparations for the harm caused by the country’s residential school system, which forcibly removed Indigenous children from their families and culture.
In California, a contentious proposal has been made to pay $350,000 to each descendant of slaves as a form of reparations. The proposal is part of a broader effort to acknowledge and address the lasting impact of slavery on Black Americans. Supporters of the proposal argue that reparations are necessary to address the systemic racism and inequality that continue to affect the Black community in the US.
Barbados Calls for Reparations For Past Wrongs
In Barbados, the government has called on wealthy families and corporations with ties to the slave trade to donate their historic mansions to good causes. One such family is the Drax family, who profited from the slave trade and owned several properties on the island.
Another is the Cumberbatch family, to the considerable embarrassment of Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor. Both these families are anxious to clear their names against the tarnish of the slave trade their ancestors participated in. Others may come forward or be contacted.
The Barbados government hopes that these donations will help to address the historical injustices of the slave trade and create opportunities for economic and social development.
Apeals to the UK have not fallen on deaf ears.
In his speech at CHOGN 2022 in Rwanda King Charlres, then Prince Charles, remaked ” It seems to me that there are lessons in this for our Commonwealth family. For, while we strive together for peace, prosperity and democracy, I want to acknowledge that the roots of our contemporary association run deep into the most painful period of our history. I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact. If we are to forge a common future that benefits all our citizens, we, too, must find new ways to acknowledge our past. Quite simply, this is a conversation whose time has come. Your Excellencies, conversations start with listening, and as The Queen said at our last meeting, the Commonwealth has always been. It remains: “a global association… which believes in the tangible benefits that flow from exchanging ideas and experiences and respecting each other’s point of view.”
More on the History & Heritage of Barbados
Get the book Rogues in Paradise:
The Vibrant Spirit of Barbados: A Journey Through its Past and Present.
International Move to Repair the Past
Over the past decade, there has been a surge of interest in reparations for past wrongs in many parts of the world. City councils in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Washington D.C., and elsewhere have adopted resolutions calling for reparations. Brown University has appointed a Committee on Slavery and Justice to examine whether the university should pay reparations or make amends for its historical connection to slavery. The Reparations Coordinating Committee (RCC), centered at Harvard Law School and comprising an all-star cast of lawyers, scholars, and activists, is filing various suits in several courts
There are many reasons for this surge of interest in reparations. Recent successes in reparations lawsuits against Swiss banks, European insurance companies, and German corporations for harms inflicted in the Nazi past have paved the way for similar claims in other contexts. The central role of reparations in recent transitions to democracy in South Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere have also helped to increase interest in the concept. Additionally, the monetary awards and official apology extended by the US Government in 1988 to Japanese-Americans illegally interned during World War II have set a precedent for reparations in the US context.
US Civil Rights Failure
Importantly, the surge of interest in reparations also reflects the failure of civil rights legislation in the 1960s to repair the deep-seated inequalities left behind by 350 years of legally institutionalized discrimination. Despite some progress towards racial justice in the decades following the civil rights era, a conservative realignment of national politics since the 1970s has stalled further progress. As a result, there is a growing recognition of the need for reparation and redress for past wrongs to ensure a more just and equitable future for all.