UK Prime Minster Refuses To Apologize for Slavery or Pay Reparations
Our Prime Minister is again showing how ugly the Conservative Party is by saying that he will not apologize for Britain’s participation in the slave trade, and will not pay reparations, despite payments the government has made to former slave owners and their families. During a recent Prime Minister’s Questions, Rishi Sunak was challenged by Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy, who asked if he would do what late Labour MP Bernie Grant had first asked for over two decades ago.
She said, “In his last Prime Minister’s Questions before his death he asked for an apology to the people of African descent, living and dead, for our country’s role in slavery and colonialism. But since then, prime ministers and heads of state have only ever expressed sorrow or deep regret.
“These are not sentiments that are befitting one of the greatest atrocities in human history. There has been no acknowledgment of the wealth that has been amassed or the fact that our country took out the largest loan it ever has to pay off the slave owners, and not the enslaved.” Prime Minister Tony Blair had offered an apology in 2007, but it was still far short of what Ribeiro-Addy was asking Sunak to do: “offer a full and meaningful apology for our country’s role in slavery and colonialism, and commit to reparatory justice.”
Sunak responded as expected: cutthroat and with no sense or empathy, explaining that “trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward.”
“No. What I think our focus should now be on doing is, of course, understanding our history and all its parts, not running away from it, but right now making sure that we have a society which is inclusive and tolerant of people from all backgrounds.
“That’s something that we on this side of the House are committed to doing and will continue to deliver, but trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward, and it’s not something that we will focus our energies on.”
Sunak’s response doesn’t surprise me considering the fact that until 2015—yes, 2015, as in eight years ago—our government was still paying “compensation” to former slave owners, which started in 1833 after the abolition of slavery in Britain.
However, there may be hope that there can be some sort of justice brought, as The Guardian reported that a group of some of the U.K.’s wealthiest slave owners’ families, known as Heirs of Slavery, had formed a group to seek what Sunak refused to give. On their website, they state, “Our main purpose is to lend our voices as heirs of those involved in the business of slavery to support campaigns for institutional and national reparative justice.”
(featured image: WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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