In our editorial from yesterday, “Rectifying the past”, we deconstructed the comments of Prince Charles at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda as it pertained to the call for reparatory justice that has been made by Caricom through its Reparations Commission. Three of the ten points in its demands were interrogated – those relating to the need for an apology, repatriation to the African Continent and Genocide of Indigenous Peoples.
However, we feel that several of Caricom’s other points are quite superficial and do not address the root causes but merely symptoms of what they are alluding to. The first concerns, “CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS” and states: “European nations have invested in the development of community institutions such as museums and research centres in order to prepare their citizens for an understanding of these Crimes against Humanity (CAH).
These facilities serve to reinforce within the consciousness of their citizens an understanding of their role in history as rulers and change agents. There are no such institutions in the Caribbean where the CAH was committed. Caribbean schoolteachers and researchers do not have the same opportunity.
Descendants of these CAH continue to suffer the disdain of having no relevant institutional systems through which their experience can be scientifically told. This crisis must be remedied within the CRJP.”
The second call for “ILLITERACY ERADICATION”: “At the end of the European colonial period in most parts of the Caribbean, the British in particular left the black and Indigenous communities in a general state of illiteracy. Some 70 per cent of blacks in British colonies were functionally illiterate in the 1960s when nation-states began to appear.
“Widespread illiteracy has subverted the development efforts of these nation-states and represents a drag upon social and economic advancement. Caribbean Governments allocate more than 70 per cent of public expenditure to health and education in an effort to uproot the legacies of slavery and colonisation. European Governments have a responsibility to participate in this effort within the context of the CRJP.”
Thirdly, there is a call for an “AFRICAN KNOWLEDGE PROGRAM”: “The forced separation of Africans from their homeland has resulted in cultural and social alienation from identity and existential belonging. Denied the right in law to life, and divorced by space from the source of historic self, Africans have craved the right to return and knowledge of the route to roots.
A program of action is required to build ‘bridges of belonging’. Such projects as school exchanges and culture tours, community artistic and performance programmes, entrepreneurial and religious engagements, as well as political interaction, are required in order to neutralise the void created by slave voyages. Such actions will serve to build knowledge networks that are necessary for community rehabilitation.
And lastly, “PSYCHOLOGICAL REHABILITATION”: “For over 400 years Africans and their descendants were classified in law as non-human, chattel, property, and real estate. They were denied recognition as members of the human family by laws derived from the parliaments and palaces of Europe. This history has inflicted massive psychological trauma upon African descendant populations. This much is evident daily in the Caribbean.
Only a reparatory justice approach to truth and educational exposure can begin the process of healing and repair.”
We believe that the Caricom call for reparatory justice can benefit from the perspective of Peruvian sociologist Aníbal Quijano, who introduced the concept of, “The coloniality of Power” at the beginning of this millennium. In it, as he later said, he identified the ‘Root Crisis of the Coloniality of Global Power’ and showed that while colonialism might be over, its structures remain firmly in place as “coloniality”. More specifically, these form an interrelated triad he called the “coloniality of power” in the immanence of race in the modernity project that “others” the African in absolute terms; in culture that places European/Western culture as foundational to all others and finally in hierarchies of power that the non-white world remains at the bottom.
A coordinated root and branch effort is needed by the old “South”. Colonialism was as much an epistemological, as a political, project.