Views, ideas, inspiration, vision and practical tips for a better more prosperous Malawi

Should we pay reparations – The Big Questions

I saw this video this morning. I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t seen it before, but again, I don’t own a television, so its easy to miss things.

This is how I see it

Hidden & Falsified History

The Kızlar Ağası, head of the black eunuchs of the Ottoman Imperial Harem. The title literally means

The Kızlar Ağası, head of the black eunuchs of the Ottoman Imperial Harem. The title literally means “Chief of the Girls”

African History has not been taught. At least not in the way that it deserved to be taught. Definitely not in the way European or American history has been taught. This is a pathetic fallacy that must be rectified. I’ve written and cited quite a lot of information about this in the past, including on the following links, and so I will not repeat these here:-

Context

It is not only unfair, but disingenuous to say that everyone suffered from history, so lets all just forget about the past and move on. As Esther Stanford Xosei points out in the video, the transatlantic Slave Trade was unparalleled in scale, ferocity and effects. You can’t brush that fact under the carpet, and tell everyone to move on, because history simply won’t allow you. Pushing anything that contravenes this clear historical fact is tantamount to rewriting history: a lie.

Further, I think it’s very difficult if not impossible for white people – who have not experienced the stigma and pain black people live with, to identify with it or completely understand the numerous ways in which that pain afflicts its victims.

Just because you don’t feel something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. And in my view, there’s a lot of apathy in the western world regarding the plight of black people. Most white people in positions of authority simply don’t care enough. Which is not surprising to be honest.

Multiple Effects

I can’t elaborate any better about the different psychological conditions talked about in the video. What I can say is that whether the medical professions in the western world accept their existence or not, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Often, the same medical professions are controlled and run by predominantly white-folk, who as I pointed above have never experienced these things first hand, so I wouldn’t be surprised if organisations such as National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) or Royal College of Psychiatrists don’t recognise them.

More importantly, I can say hand on heart that at least 9 out of 10 of all my black friends have some kind of ‘mental’ issues relating to their position in society, and how they feel about being black, African or of Afro-caribbean descent living in a western country.

Predictably, these ‘mental issues’ don’t feature in the white or Indian Africans I know – many of whom I studied with at College and University.

Both educated well-paid black Africans (those who work as Solicitors, Doctors, Engineers, Lecturers, Consultants and Accountant Managers), and the not so educated – who work in low paid, low skilled work have this ‘complex’ , if you can allow me to call it that. It sometimes manifests itself as apathy i.e. ‘ there’s nothing we can do about it‘, and at other times it’s rebellious i.e. ‘after the way we have been treated, why the hell would I pay for such and such‘, and yet at other times it comes out in the form of religious resignation ‘God will punish them for their wrongs

I doubt it is cultural, because my friends come from varying different backgrounds, with no single identifiable culture. For example a few of my Kenyan friends have cultures very different to those of my Zambian and Tanzanian friends. Even in Malawi, our cultures across the country vary greatly, so I very much doubt it’s down to culture.

The closest description I can think of, of this complex is a powerlessness when it comes to racial identity and racial issues (past and present), which has caused many black people stress, depression (complete with tablets) and anger, and which can negatively interfere with their lives. A description that I must admit is incomplete, and doesn’t quite capture the whole complex…

Implicit bias

I like to study people, especially if they don’t know they are being studied, I enjoy it. Their behaviours, the assumptions, the stereotypes, it’s very easy for me to pick on certain words they use, certain familiar habits – and identify what they actually mean. Or what I think they mean.Take a look at the following cartoon to see what I am talking about:-

cartoonAnd this alone may not be harmless, until you find out who owns the industries. Who the employer is, who administers justice, who is in charge of policing…who educates the children, and suddenly these biases become relevant, because it is possible (consciously or otherwise) to favour white kids over black kids; in stop and search (which disproportionately affects black people than it does white people). Or to incarcerate more black people for the same crimes than white people; to be prejudicial to black people in the criminal justice system; to be prejudicial in the job market; to be prejudicial when giving loans; Or to target black people with falsified or politically motivated attacks with the goal of incriminating them – to make them look bad, and emphasise the ‘black criminal’ stereotypes.

It is happening across the world, not only in the UK and the US, and sadly much of it goes unreported.

Indeed schools in the UK have been accused numerous times over the years of providing an insufficient if not inferior education to black children. Top Universities have been accused of not attracting enough ethnic minorities. The effect of all this is that real economic power, whether in Manchester, Brixton, Lilongwe or Kampala, predominantly rests with white middleclass middle-aged men. What Grayson Perry in the New Statesman calls Default Man.

And then we wonder why hundreds of thousands of Africans flee their countries wanting to come to Europe (dying in their thousands along the way), or Australia, or the United States.

Polar opposite Experiences

The differences and life outcomes also couldn’t be starker, not only in identity and confidence levels, but also in economic terms. Opposite ends of a behavioural spectrum – if such a thing could be said to exist, is evident when you contrast behaviour in a board meeting full of predominantly white male directors (among which I was the only black person), with a luncheon with members of a predominantly black church (where there were no white people).

Just sitting there and watching people within such groups interact teaches you a lot about race, wealth, power, inequality, confidence and many other qualities/ behaviours.

It shows you how different people are. It lays bare for example the financial constraints in black families; that when a minority is in a place where they are not expected – it becomes news. Instead of people focussing why they are at the conference, many questions are asked about this new guy, this brown-skinned guy: who is he, why is he here. Questions which are not asked to the other participants, most of whom are white.

I learn that the kinds of multi-million pound deals which white company directors sitting around a table in a plush conference centre discuss, would be totally alien to a group of black businessmen (or indeed to any group of black people). The large majority of them have never been exposed to that kind of money, and the video above – to an extent – raises the issues as to why this is so.

Many times I’ve found myself in predominantly white gatherings, including a few years ago in Shanghai, as the only black person at a business event; spending several nights in a $300 a night hotel in a different city, again as the only black person; I got exactly the same sentiments and reactions.

And it’s bizarre when strangers come to you asking you to take pictures with them…in 2010

To me the whole thing makes perfect sense:- the reason more black people are not found in such business environments is because they do not have the money or are under-represented at board level in many professional fields. The generational obstacles stacked up against them are high enough to ensure too few of them independently amass any serious amount of  wealth, and almost no one amasses power.

And here, i must mention something else. When a black business person is driven, confident, arrogant, pushy and a go-getter, they are often feared and labelled as ‘aggressive’ or difficult to work with; whereas white business folk who exhibit exactly the same qualities and characteristics are called ‘shrewd’ and ‘alpha males’.

Redress

While I understand why people and countries seek reparations, for me it’s not about reparations per se, but how to change for the better the current unfair system of Capitalism (which clearly favours a tiny few over the majority of people in the world); in the system we currently are under, Africa, and people of African origin are at the very bottom of the socio-economic pyramid.

I’d like to see a world of responsible capitalism  (which i’ll define exactly as I understand it on this blog at some point).

In the video above, it’s interesting that someone cited Israel, and I’m glad to see that Esther tackled that point perfectly. Israel  (if we can put its internal and regional politics aside) in my view is a good demonstration of how you can create a liquid democracy from nothing, and ensure of its relative success. The Israeli post-holocaust experience is different from the African post-genocide/post-slavery experience on a number of points such as:

  • Israelis in the diaspora have been given preferential treatment that has enabled them to succeed. Most don’t need Visas to visit or live in Western countries, and their established networks make it very easy for their people to get loans, and start businesses or to find jobs. Thus, they can access markets and capital relatively easily. In contrast Africans or Afro-Caribbeans have at no point enjoyed such privileges, and find it harder than most others to find jobs, start businesses or get loans.
  • Jews were never given an inferior education for any considerable length of time during the time they were persecuted across Europe. They were prohibited from studying, over certain periods, and prevented from entering certain professions in many countries, but they weren’t purposely fed a poisonous and destructive educational experience that continues to affect their communities even today. In contrast, Africans have been given an inferior education (or no education at all), for centuries! Which affects the jobs they get in today’s economies, and their economic circumstances from one generation to the next – as this article on Forbes demonstrates. I’m not saying that its impossible to break this cycle. No. What I’m saying is that it’s a lot more difficult for a black person to break through this vicious cycle of poverty, discrimination, oppression and debt because they have a lot more obstacles stacked against them, and face a lot more prejudice/discrimination (institutional or otherwise) from so many places.
  • Apart from Nazism, there were few ideologies in history designed to oppress, repress and steal from Jews. That can’t be said of African and Afro-caribbean people, who have suffered one ideology after another all designed to incapacitate and dispossess them. You can’t brush all that under the carpet and claim it doesn’t have a cross-generational effect; without publicly acknowledging the scale, impact and long-term effects such oppression has had, without putting effective measures to address the anomaly, very little will change.
  • Israel was never in debt in the same way as African and Afro-caribbean countries have been in debt. Israeli citizens own a lot of their own industry, whereas in Sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of large / lucrative industry is owned by foreign corporations, who siphon the profits out of the country, with the consequence that African countries fail to raise sufficient funds from tax collection to be able to invest in their economies. So there’s under-investment in almost every important sector of public spending from infrastructure maintenance and development, to education, healthcare and national security. This in turn affects crime (which will be on the increase), lack of infrastructure deters foreign investment (which affects the number of jobs), and lack of resources in healthcare means most hospitals have no medicines or sufficient staff and therefore fail to function.
  • Israel has a powerful and well-funded lobby, which in many respects is a good thing. It means you are not perpetually broke and your interests are safeguarded on the global scene. Africans and Afro-Caribbeans have no such luxuries.

So ask yourself, how can black people move on when there are such grossly unfair inequalities that continue until this day? Not only in the UK, but across the world…?

I will never believe the lazy and totally untruthful claims that poverty in Africa is due to corruption and inefficiency of Africans alone.

NEVER.

I know enough not to be taken in by such rubbish.

About Sang N.

Writer, Entrepreneur & Activist. Interests: History, Entrepreneurship, Business, Motors, Architecture, Aviation, Travel, Food and Art.

One comment on “Should we pay reparations – The Big Questions

  1. Pingback: Why not a #Museum to the #slave #Trade? – #GeorgeGalloway |

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This entry was posted on April 27, 2015 by in Opinion and tagged , , , , , .
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