235 years ago, in the winter of 1781, 133 African slaves lost their lives over an insurance claim. The slave ship Zong was bound for Jamaica when British sailors chained the slaves together by their ankles, weighed down by metal balls and cast them into the sea. The slaves were deliberately drowned so the slave ship owners could claim compensation for lost cargo. It boggles the mind. Man’s inhumanity to Man. A few weeks ago the Jamaican government recalled the Zong massacre to demonstrate the indubitably colossal human cost of slavery and reaffirm Jamaica’s position that the United Kingdom should get its finger out and once and for all apologise and, indeed, make financial reparations for our running a slave colony in Jamaica for over 200 years.
Jamaica has a point. The United Kingdom profited from the slave trade for years. Indirectly it still does. The Empire was built on the slave trade and we certainly would not be the 6th largest economy in the world without our legacy of Empire. When we walk through our cities you can see the proceeds of transatlantic slavery everywhere. In our buildings, our museums, our grand arches and our palaces we see echoes from our past.
But…..but….. I hear (you righties) cry. There is no point to making judgements on the past. It is what it is. It was what it was. We should not try and cast aspersions on what went before just because we have higher standards today. Of course, in saying this they conveniently ignore the fact that they can sit on their comfortable western rich arse because as a nation we have reaped the plentiful rewards of slavery and colonisation. (America I am looking at you too). As nations we are loaded and we have a collective responsibility to those who in the 21st century have been left behind economically and societally because of the residual fallout from the slave trade era. They are poorer because we are richer.
Time to splash some cash to help those communities that made us rich while we enslaved them, starved them, lynched them and massacred them. We may not be able to transfer moral responsibility for previous generation’s actions but we can recognise how our nations benefited from the transatlantic slave trade and share some of those benefits with those who still feel the impact of slavery today.