Skip to comments.Oxford Union finds Britain should pay slavery reparations
Posted on 06/22/2015 5:49:03 AM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
A motion supporting compensation for former colonies wins following heated discussion.
THE OXFORD Union - the debating society founded by members of Oxford University nearly 190 years ago - is known to be on good terms with controversy.
A debate on Thursday (May 28) made no attempt to break with tradition, posing the question: does Britain owe reparations to her former colonies over the damage caused?
It didnt take just the debate to begin a polemic.
The Union bar was criticised for promoting a cocktail special called 'The Colonial Comeback' alongside an image of two black hands in shackles.
An apology was promptly given by the treasurer, revealing the committee had not been aware of the promotion claiming bar staff appeared to be responsible.
It was in this rather tense environment that the speakers took to the floor to debate the official proposition: 'This House Believes Britain Owes Reparations to her Former Colonies.'
The first speaker, student Henna Dattani, quickly painted the grim portrait of the matter at hand, beginning with a harrowing description of a woman in Kenya being tortured in front of her son in 1954.
She argued reparations "go far beyond cash payments", and are centred on recognising past injustices and redressing the moral imbalance brought on by colonisation.
Postgraduate student Alpha Lee followed for the opposition.
Without failing to recognise the atrocities of colonialism, he suggested that mandating Britain to pay reparations would prompt countries to blame their shortcomings on colonialism rather than work hard to get themselves back on their feet.
And who would the money go to? What if leaders embezzle the pay-outs?, Lee asked.
With this moment came more drama.
Two students got to their feet raising a large poster with the words: 'Who will speak for ME? #RhodesMustFall'.
The hashtag refers to Cecil Rhodes, the notorious imperialist who continues to be held in high esteem by the university.
Earlier this year, protests against a statue on a South African university campus led to its removal.
Across the room two others were holding another banner, stating: 'Brutality should not be DEBATED'.
So out of place was this act of silent protest that a bouncer attempted to remove those standing from the room.
But after one protester clarified the Unions rules do not condemn non-auditory and non-violent protest, they were allowed to continue.
First-year student Ssuuna Golooba-Mutebi spoke next.
Of Ugandan origin himself, he pointed out that the claim that Britain colonised Africa to provide it with roads, education and language was fallacious: the continent had flourished with many languages, kingdoms and intellectuals long before colonisation.
He also identified that Britain continues to benefit from the financial capital it amassed from the natural resources of other countries, as well as from the slave trade.
Ssuunas contribution was met with a resounding applause.
The same cannot be said of Sir Richard Ottaway, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee who began his speech by claiming: "We have moved on from colonialism, and made other remarks, including that "some objected" to their colonial oppression, and that "there was sacrifice on both sides".
The Honourable Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, Jamaicas High Commissioner to the UK since 2012, quickly set about dismantling Ottaway's notion of the legacy we left behind in referring to the raping of land and the torture of slaves, and then went on to list conceivable measures of non-monetary reparations: atonements for cultural damage; psychological rehabilitation and debt cancellation, alluding to Carioms 10-point plan.
Caricom - an organisation of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies established in its current form in 2001 - is currently working on a landmark legal case to sue European countries for reparations.
American historian William Roger Louis, who specialised in the British Empire, spoke against the motion, citing the rise of Nazi Germany after the country had been crippled by post-First World War as evidence that 'reparations have often led to a desire for more'.
When the floor was opened up to Union members to give their opinions, sparks flew.
One student was heckled for suggesting that black enslavement was no different to the suffering experienced by white Irish Catholics. Another claimed colonisation has only affected those who lived through that period.
The Indian former Under-Secretary General of the UN Dr Shashi Tharoor concluded for the side in favour of the motion; unearthing statistics such as that India's share in the worlds wealth had downscaled from 23 per cent pre-colonisation to less than four cent by the time Britain left.
He added: "Its a bit rich to enslave, maim and torture people for 200 years and celebrate that theyre democratic at the end of it."
Professor John MacKenzie, historian of imperialism, in stating that he had expected a "cool, clean debate, rather than one of emotion" was met with disapproval from the audience.
It was perhaps not surprising then that the results of the debate showed a decided triumph for the proposition speakers, with the motion 'This House Believes Britain Owes Reparations to its Former Colonies' winning by 185 to 56 votes.
And Rachel Dolezal said, “Amen, bro!”
Awesome idea. They should start by taking all the money (or whatever they call their currency) being paid to former Oxford Union members in the form of pension and turn it over to.......uhhhhhh.......how, exactly, are they going to know to whom to give the money?
Given how the Brits are all over Facebook screaming about the Rebel flag of the south, I tend to agree that they should pay reparations and be reminded of their heinous acts instead of focusing on us.
If the people living in Britain before 1833 (when Britain abolished slavery throughout the Empire), could exploit and enslave the people of Africa etc., they did.
If the people living in Africa etc. in the 21st century can exploit and enslave the people living in Britain, they will.
People are all the same.
Power corrupts them.
And they have a talent for confusing power with justice.
Oh the Brits owe reparations to the Americans, who were under their heel until 1776 and are still suffering from the effects of British colonialism!
Just imagine what they would owe Ireland..
More Irish were sent as slaves to the New World, than Africans
There was a big difference between an Irish indentured servant (not slave) and an African slave.
Pay them off and then cut them off from all further aid. If they are capable of flourishing on their own, let them.
The British, their Christian faith, and their Navy did more to end slavery than any force in history. It was (and still is in certain areas dominated by a certain religion) a practically universal human institution, taken for granted as such until the 19th century. Besides, if we’re talking about the African slave trade and its victims in the Caribbean then the French and Dutch are at least as liable as Britain.
You will rarely hear a peep about their role in slavery. It’s like they’ve re-written their history.
I’m amazed at how ignorant they are about their own history while continually obsessing about America’s role in slavery. And they hate to be reminded that they were one of the European nations that actually brought slavery to America.
Do the former colonies owe payment to Britain for the cultural and technological development they received?
Let's be generous and just call it even.
Insanity. Britain is the one nation that did more to end slavery than any other on the planet. They led the way.
The state of most of sub-Saharan Africa before European colonization was mostly stone age type living. That these supreme ignoramuses want reparations for being thrust into the modern world is to me a huge joke.
I wonder which option they'd take? (snicker)