I’m An Afro-Caribbean Canadian American. Who Do I Go To For Reparations?
Over the last year, the conversation of financial reparations for the Black community has been front and center and the call for it has been growing louder and louder. Right now the main focus particularly in the US has been getting to inauguration day and getting the election certified by the Electoral college, in addition to winning the two senate seats in Georgia so that the Democrats have a majority in all three branches of government so they can actually get laws passed. We’ve recently seen that cannabis has been legalized in the House and if there is a majority Democratic Senate come January, there is real possibility to decriminalize cannabis on a federal level, which would open up the flood gates to this market legally for millions of Americans, including Black and Indigenous people. Cannabis is already federally legal in Canada so this would make things a lot easier between the two countries. Cannabis is a major progressive issue that has been pushed and has a real success of getting federally legalized. There is no reason to think that reparations for the Black community will not be one of the progressive agendas pushed as well, and rightfully so.
As the cabinet starts shaping up in the Biden administration, Black people are pushing for more Black men and women into positions of direct power and influence. This is because Black people historically have been shut out of some of the most prominent positions in past presidential administrations. By having more Black representation at the table at the highest levels of the presidential cabinet, it helps our community to see not only is it possible but to hold those individuals accountable for serving the interests of their community as they are paid by the tax payers dollars-thus their communities are paying their salaries and they’re accountable to them. It’s also extremely important for the president, since he is not a person of colour, to hear directly from people of colour and ensure he fully understands the weight of his actions and how it will affect marginalized communities. Part of that decision making is reparations and the publicly apology owed to both the Black community and the Indigenous community. These two groups of people of colour have never been issued a publicly apology in history nor has any president ever fully recognized the affects of the enslavement, murder and colonization of the Indigenous Americans by white Europeans and the enslavement of African Indigenous people brought to America and Canada to build these countries.
So overall, I fully believe in and support the idea of financial reparations from the federal government, in addition to land and full sovereignty back to Indigenous Americans and Canadians. I do believe Black people should be given land as well as the enslaved people who were freed and promised land never received it. So there is a huge unpaid debt the American and Canadian governments owe to Black and Indigenous people. But I must admit, I find myself feeling very much like an outsider at this moment. While I am both a Canadian and American citizen, my ancestry is complex. I am American through naturalization and immigration citizenship. So I personally do not feel I have any claim whatsoever on any financial reparations the U.S. government might in the future pay out to the Black community, if that were to ever happen. Quite frankly, I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable taking it because my Black ancestry isn’t rooted there. I am a Canadian citizen by birth as I was born here, but I am first generation Canadian. My parents were not born here. They were born in Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica. So if the Canadian government were to pay out reparations to Black people in Canada, again I would not feel comfortable taking it because my Black ancestry is not rooted here.
So then I look to my grandparents and their parents and this is where it gets even more complicated. On one side of my family, my grandmother is a first generation Trinidadian. Her mother was pregnant with her on a boat coming from Grenada. She and her brothers and sisters were all first generation Trinidadians. Then on the Jamaican side of my family, my grandfather is a first generation Jamaican. His father was born and raised in Cuba, from the Santiago de Cuba region. Then my grandmother’s father was full-blooded East Indian and he was a first generation Jamaican which makes her a second generation Jamaican. My great grandfathers parents were born and raised in India. And this is just the parts of the story I’m aware of. There’s still more to it. But either way, I find myself asking as an Afro-Caribbean woman who’s parents generational ancestry is not deeply rooted in any one country, who would I go to for reparations of the effects of slavery in my ancestry? Because I do have ancestors who for sure were enslaved in the islands. The problem is, there were so many European countries who participated in slavery and owned any of the given islands my parents are from that I’m not even sure we could pinpoint who owned who when. The French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British rotated ownership of the Caribbean which was the second largest landing place of enslaved African people, behind Brazil. They had already killed off almost all of the Indigenous people already.
I think about how these 5 European nations in particular wrought so much devastation and harm on so many Black and Indigenous people. Yet, I’ve never heard of a reparation ever being paid. So maybe that’s my answer. Maybe as the descendent of African and Indigenous people’s of the Caribbean islands, I should demand my financial reparations of the EU. Considering that the EU is the world’s second largest economy behind China at a $19.8 trillion dollar GDP in 2019, they can more than afford to pay reparations to Black and Indigenous Caribbean descendants of slavery. So I encourage all Afro-Caribbean people who can for sure trace their roots to slavery, we should be demanding reparations of the EU since all of the European countries who started and actively participated and therefore profited off of the enslaved Black and Indigenous people for hundreds of years and built their country, cities and economies off of the stolen lands of Indigenous people and the slave labor of African people are in the EU. Oh, and I want to go after the Vatican and Catholic church as well for their role in the enslaved people and how their very own priests and bishops and even popes condoned slavery for years. They should be held accountable as well and should pay financial reparation's to Black and Indigenous people. They should also offer a public apology for their role in enslaving people yet claiming to be the representatives of God. In addition to this they must also publicly apologize to Indigenous people in Canada and the U.S. for the residential schools and the horrific atrocities that happened there. This is true accountability. This is a true reparation. Anything less than this will not do.
If this world really wants to heal the wounds of slavery and the genocide of the Indigenous people’s of Turtle Island, then we need to be completely honest about what happened. We need to change our history textbooks in America and Canada and teach the real history, not the white-washed one. And we need public apologies backed up by financial reparations and land back. Full financial and government support needs to be provided to the Indigenous community and they need to be at the table in government to ensure their needs are being heard and addressed. This is a true reparation. There is so much work to be done. But it can be done. We don’t need corporations throwing money at marginalized people to make themselves look good and get a tax write off (which they do). We need our elected officials to do the right thing and make a historically wrong right by starting the healing process for Black and Indigenous people. This is a part of the shift in consciousness that is needed in 2020.