Much is being made in England and throughout the English speaking or so-called anglophone world about the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British empire and its breakaway colony, the United States of America.
Hollywood and the monopoly sector of entertainment capital have marked this anniversary with a major feature film, Amazing Grace, about the life and works of William Wilberforce.
What should Afrikan peoples throughout the world make of this fanfare? While commemorations, public discussion, and the issuance of statements of ‘regret’ – not formal apologies, all must note the difference morally and legally – are being offered for the monumental crime against humanity are positive, they are by no means an adequate response to this crime.
In the 200 years since the cessation of the slave trade within the English speaking empires, suffering and exploitation of Afrikan people within these territories have not abated, only changed in form.
Where slavery once structured the ruthless exploitation of Afrikan people, neo-colonialism is now the order of the day. The central question underlining these commemorative activities is what forms of restitution, redress, and reparations should be offered to Afrikan peoples throughout the world by the governments of the United Kingdom, the United States, and the numerous corporate enterprises built by the capital accumulated from the slave trade sanctioned by these states?
Reparations are just a starting point, the necessary first step, towards the elimination of the ongoing legacies of the slave trade and slavery for Afrikan peoples. If Afrikan peoples do not press the demand of reparations at these commemorative events, then we will allow them to serve as justifications for their ongoing denial.
The legacy of Afrikans liberating themselves from slavery must also be redressed. Specifically, the Haitian revolution, and the seminal role this played in ending the slave trade. The moral appeals of Quaker and Methodist abolitionists aside, it was the success and spreading appeal of the Haitian revolution throughout the Afrikan diaspora that forced British and American colonisers and capitalists to end the slave trade in order to stop fuelling the fire for liberation fanned by the Haitian people.
The denial of this fact perpetuates the dehumanising white supremacist myth that Afrikan people did not, and could not, play a decisive role in their own liberation. Its denial also serves to distort our understanding of historic processes, particularly those of revolutionary transformation.
The determinant force in the liberation of Afrikan people, then as now, is the self-organisation of Afrikan peoples themselves. It is not the efforts of liberal do-gooders or those non-Afrikans that stand in genuine and concrete solidarity with our cause.
Distortions of this logic lead to aid initiatives with the premise that Afrikan peoples must be saved from themselves, not that imperialism and neo-colonialism have to be totally and utterly destroyed.
The conclusion therefore is that Afrikans and genuine revolutionaries everywhere must seize the opportunity being provided by the 200th anniversary commemorative events to address the ongoing legacies of slavery, the slave trade, colonialism, imperialism, and neo-colonialism and to fight, without compromise, for reparations for the heinous crimes committed against our people to build the fortresses of the British and American empires.