Why won’t we say sorry?

Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British Empire’s Atlantic slave trade. Slavery had been outlawed on the British mainland for hundreds of years, yet for some reason, it was found acceptable to kidnap huge numbers of healthy Africans, cram them into ships and transport them under appalling conditions to work on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean. As many as 20% of the slaves did not even survive the voyage. Those who did were treated with inhuman cruelty in the pursuit of profit for the British Empire.

Five years ago, eleven of the then fifteen EU countries said that they were prepared to apologise for their part in the evil trade. The occasion was the World Conference Against Racism. Four countries refused to issue an apology, Britain, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands.

Now we hear that as we prepare for the bicentennial of the abolition, the British government is still not prepared to apologise. Prime Minister Blair has spoken of his ‘sorrow’, but stopped short of an apology. The only possible reason not to apologise is that it would mean we were admitting our culpability. But this was crime against humanity on a massive scale. Both the government and the monarchy of the day were complicit.

I say that the only honourable course is to offer the fullest, unreserved apology. It would be highly appropriate if our nation were to issue that apology prior to the 200 year commemorations.

7 thoughts on “Why won’t we say sorry?”

  1. I won’t apologise because I cannot. I did not commit those crimes, how can I apologise for them?

    I will stand up and deplore the practice, it was inhumane and goes against the very foundation of my beliefs. I will gladly admit it was wrong, and give thanks for the abolishonists whose campaigning finally bore fruit.

    The other aspect is when will those Africans and Arabs who were so instrumental in the slave trade stand up and admit their ancestor’s wrongdoing? Many (most?) slaves were bought, not kidnapped. They were bought from other africans or arab slave traders.

    Many evil things have been done by people, but to ask their ancestors to apologise, and even worse to ask countries to, is simply wrong.

  2. My ancestors came here from Holland, why should an apology be issue on my behalf for something I didn’t do ? Why are people so keen for us to apologise when real action is needed now to eliminate slavery in Africa, which is ongoing.

  3. I live in Istanbul. The Ottomans had black African slaves and took mpart in the salve trade. No one is demanding an apology from Turkey? EWhy, clearly because Turkey is not as rich as the US and western Europe. Part of the agenda for demading apology is to demand reparations. However, vast amoutns of aid have been given to Africa, several times the Marshall aid given to Europe after WWII. It’s right that aid should be giüven to Africa, but so much aid has been embezzled and misspent, responsibility belongs to both doner and recipient countries. Just tranmferring laods more money on the basis of guilt is not the answer. I condemn the slave trading of all slave traders, including Brtish slave traders in the past but I can’t apologise for what I didn’t do and neither can Tony Blair. The important thing is to build a just world now including the fight for development and the fight against racism and unfree labour.

  4. I utterly disagree with Steve Guy, and this ludicrous nonsense that seems to be gathering pace that insists on people and companies and governments apologising for the sins of their pre-decessors. Nobody in the UK Government needs to apologise for what happened 200 years ago, and the Prime Minister was quite right to re-iterate the long-held view that slavery and the slave-trade was wrong, but to go no further.
    After all, as we know too well in this absurdly litigous society – to apologise is but one step away from receiving a claim for damages from somebody (who has suffered no personal loss from or experience of slavery, but who has some vague, wooly sense of injustice on behlaf of those long-dead).

    I head some ridiculous woman bleating on about this very subject on the BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme the other day. Jim Naughtie did a good job of restraining himself, I thought, at the stupidity of her claims – I would have been far less polite. As he said at the time – where does this notion stop? Should the Danish Goverment now apologise and pay damages (and to whom, exactly?) for the Viking raids of the 7th and 8th centuries? Should the Italian Government atone for any atrocities comitted in the course of the Roman Empire?

    There was a similar, but related, example of this sort of retarded nonsense recently when soldiers of the First World War were posthumously pardoned – these were the men who were shot at dawn for desertion, etc. Despite this intervention, they are apparently still dead.

    All this seems to follwo a pattern of wanting to somehow re-write history. Times change. Society’s values change over time. Learn from the past by all means. Pledge yourself not to repeat errors or injustices of the past. But for those tempted by this vogue for hair-shirt wearing, for heaven’s sake get a fucking grip and stop trying to interpose your own values on those who have long since walked off the stage!

  5. Slavery goes back too far and does not go on skin colour. Both British and Africans have been involved in forcing others into slavery.

    If we should say sorry then lets not make this black and white thing. It was and still is a terrible thing and happened all over the world. If people should say sorry then the whole world needs to say sorry including Africans not just British.

    Hell lets go all out and demand people from Mongolia say sorry for Genghis Khan and his horde. Let’s not focus on certain History but the whole history of slavery then and only then will we truly understand.

  6. So I take it then that every living German who is still paying the Jews for what was done in the Holocaust by the Nazis – is to be so excluded from reparations payments ( duly paid). However, there was not Auschwitz deceased victim who received a penny ( or – what is the German equivalent?) but the descendants who willingly and properly paid.Butthe Africans and those in the diaspora are not worthy of a reasonable repatations settlement:-

    1. Total debt relief
    2. A 50 year educational trust, with proper accounting oversight and scrutiny by the donors.
    3. This should be 1 – but so be it- an earnest apology as was delivered to the Irish by the British for the million dead in the potato famine. And as Ireland as a backwater country did in fact receive support to advance via EU support – well Africa – an entire exploited continent?

    Visit http://www.ar-africare.com


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