Jamaica asks Britain to pay reparations

in July 28th, 2021

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Jamaica is asking Britain to pay up through a petition seeking an estimated 7.6 billion pounds ($10 billion USD) in reparations over slavery. As a refresher:

  • Jamaica came under British rule in 1655, during which ~600,000 Africans were forcibly shipped over to work on plantations for sugar cane, bananas, and other crops that created fortunes for many of their owners. 
  • When slavery was abolished in 1834, the British government took out a 20 million pound loan to compensate the slave owners (for the loss of their free labor). Not only was this a large amount for that time, but reflected 40% of the government’s annual income. 
  • Jamaica gained independence in 1962, and now, the Caribbean country is using the British government’s loan as a benchmark to determine how much money is still owed to them. 

Who would the money go to? Britain’s High Commissioner dismissed the petition saying it’s unclear who would receive the reparations (such as the government) and instead called for better education about slavery’s history. There is precedent for compensating direct descendants, however, at the Virginia Theological Seminary in the U.S., where reparation payouts began this year to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Black American slaves.

Last month, a U.N. report showed that reparations are needed for people facing racism globally. Commissioned following the murder of George Floyd, the report aims to speed up action by countries to end racial injustice, end police impunity, and begin reforming education to ensure such injustices won’t happen again. Some progress has been made in the form of financial compensation, even if just one part of the ultimate solution. 

  • Earlier this year, Germany asked its former colony of Namibia for forgiveness and paid 1.1 billion euros ($1.3 billion USD) in reparations for reconstruction and development projects. 
  • While the U.S. has struggled to make federal progress, Evanston, Illinois became the first American city to make reparations available. In March, they voted to distribute $25,000 to qualifying Black households for home repairs or down payments on property.

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