Jamaica has put a price tag on slavery and has sent the British government the bill.
Jamaican officials are petitioning Britain to compensate them 7.6 billion pounds (around $10.5 billion USD) as reparations for the European country’s role in the transatlantic slave trade, Reuters reports.
An estimated 600,000 Africans were shipped to Jamaica to be chattel slaves, according to the National Library of Jamaica. The country– first colonized by Spain and then Britain– was a British colony until it became independent in 1962.
When Britain formally abolished slavery in 1834, it paid reparations…to slave owners. As Reuters reports, the British government took out a 20 million pound loan to pay them, and only finished paying the interest payments in 2015, a reminder that history that seems like a distant past is still very much shaping our present.
Jamaican lawmaker Mike Henry is initiating the reparations petition. “I am asking for the same amount of money to be paid to the slaves that was paid to the slave owners,” he said.
Upon approval from Jamaica’s National Commission on Reparations, the petition will be filed pending advice from Jamaica’s attorney general and three legal teams. It will then head to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
The Jamaican government established the National Commission on Reparations in 2009 to “recommend the form or forms which reparations may take, and to receive testimony from the public and from experts, with the aim of guiding a national approach to reparations.”
The Jamaica Information Service, a government organization that has shared background on the Commission, stated in 2014 that “[s]lavery was declared a crime against humanity by the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in South Africa in 2001. Acts of reparations have been established as an appropriate form of redress in instances where such injustices have been inflicted.”
Olivia Grange—Jamaica’s Minister of Sports, Youth, and Culture— told Reuters, “[o]ur African ancestors were forcibly removed from their home and suffered unparalleled atrocities in Africa to carry out forced labour to the benefit of the British Empire. Redress is well overdue.”
Who do we send our bill to?