Case for reparation gains international force

Historians in the News
tags: Black History Month, Black History, reparations, Black lives matter



“This is not about retribution and anger, it’s about atonement; it’s about the building of bridges across lines of moral justice,” said Sir Hilary Beckles, a distinguished historian, scholar, and activist from Barbados, during a talk Monday at Harvard Law School (HLS), where tensions continue to roil over how best to confront racism and the vestiges of the School’s own historic roots in the slave trade.

Beckles is leading an international legal effort now underway in the Caribbean to hold European nations that engaged in that region’s slave trade accountable to the modern-day descendants of those slaves. He chairs a reparations task force of the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM), the region’s top political and economic body, that has made legal claims through the U.N. against the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Unlike past payments to survivors of the Holocaust, so far no nations have agreed to make restitution for slavery.

“Those who argue against reparatory justice, when you examine the assumptions of those arguments, whether legal, philosophical, social, moral … they converge around a simple point: that the African peoples of the Americas might have a moral and legal right to justice, but they are not deserving of reparatory justice,” Beckles said, “unless they are facing human extinction.”




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