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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  August 3, 2021 12:30am-1:01am BST

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this is bbc news. we will have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour, as newsday continues straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk with me, zeinab badawi, coming to you from barbados. i'm on an historic sugar plantation where enslaved africans toiled in backbreaking labour during three centuries of the transatlantic slave trade. barbados was one of the earliest and most profitable of the slave colonies in the caribbean.
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this is the house on the grounds of the plantation built in the 1650s where the slave owners lived in great style. my guest is barbados—born eminent historian sir hilary beckles. he's vice—chancellor of the university of the west indies and chair of a caribbean commission to gain reparations for the descendants of enslaved africans. what are his chances of success? professor sir hilary beckles, welcome to hardtalk. tremendous honour. pleasure to be here. right. so we're here in the part of barbados that is your ancestral land. your great—great—great grandparents worked on sugar plantations just nearby. what is the legacy of that history of slavery here in barbados?
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well, this is where the global world and the small island came together 400 years ago. this is barbados, the first slave—plantation economy in the world. this is where slavery, plantations, british capitalism all came together. a small place becoming the centre of the financial world of the west. it's a tremendous history. a tremendous history, but it's also one of great, great tragedy. absolutely. the entire structures we see here, these economic systems, called plantations, the enslavement of thousands of african peoples on these islands, the tragic nature of the slave trade, the exploitation of people at the most extreme levels in human history, all generating tremendous wealth. and barbados became known as the wealthiest colony in the world because of slavery and sugar, and the way in which it plugged
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into the british economy, the way in which britain grew wealthy out of all of this. but so the legacy of british enslavement, the exploitation of african peoples on these plantations, the legacies are all around us, the poverty, the underdevelopment, the consistent institutional racism, white supremacy, all of those structures that made the system work are still here with us. so you are chair of a caribbean commission, caricom, the inaugural chair in 2013, a commission set up to look at reparations to redress all these grievances that you've just set out. but i'll be frank with you, i mean, talking to diplomatic sources here in barbados, western sources, they say, "reparations — this isn't a topic that concerns the ordinary barbadian." at every moment in history when there's a major crime to be adjudicated, a major transition to be made,
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the general view has always been it's not going to happen in my lifetime. if you asked the enslaved people in 1830, british parliament is going to legislate the abolition of slavery in 1833, but if you took a census on the west indian sugar plantations and the slaves and you asked them the question, "will you ever see freedom in your lifetime?" i would wager that the majority of enslaved people who had been enslaved for 200 or 300 years would have said, "we will never see freedom." let's just look at the legacy of slavery. you've outlined some of the economic grievances. let me tell you what a french—african historian says, amzat boukari—yabara, he says, "young people of african descent in france today are insurrectional because their history has never been taken into account." so the question i want to ask you is this — how far do you think there's a difference between africans or people of african descent living in black majority countries, such as barbados, and those living in white majority countries,
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such as france? there's always a kind of volatility based on the diversity of knowledge and content. when i was growing up as a teenager in the british high—school system, we were never taught anything about british colonial history, imperialism. i went through the british university system. we were never taught anything about british imperial history. and so there is a diversity of content. the british working class people, the majority of british people do not know anything of significance about what they did to other people in other parts of the world in order to secure their enrichment. so, yes, we have this diversity of opinion. but this is why reparatory justice is much more than a conversation about the african people, specifically. what you're talking about is the unravelling of modernity, the crumbling of the structures that supported modernity, the white supremacy, the racism, the colonisation... can you nail all that at the door...?
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all of that is breaking down to create a new frontier for the 21st century. but can you lay all of that to the slave legacy, you know, discriminatory policing services... ? that's the core of it. really? what happened in india with the destruction of the indian 19th—century industrial economy by britain, what is happening all over africa, what happened to the indigenous people of the new world? all of this is part of the same conversation. the african part of it is a critical part of it, but it goes beyond the african experience. so do you think that, in the light of the killing of george floyd last year and the blm protests, that there is a new awakening? i'll tell you what michelle bachelet, the un human rights commissioner, former president of chile, said after the killing of floyd. "behind today's racial violence, systemic racism and discriminatory policing lies the failure to acknowledge and confront the legacy of the slave trade and colonialism." well, absolutely.
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is she right? absolutely. listen, reparatoryjustice has always been about the gap between what the victims know and what the rest of the world is willing to admit. and there has been this schism between self knowledge and public knowledge. however, the george floyd circumstance converged the two. the world saw for themselves what we had been saying all along in our communities. but that has been taking place all over the world. we've seen it in south africa during the anti—apartheid struggle. the world did not really care much about apartheid in south africa until the killing of young people, young people on the streets demonstrating. then the observations came together. a lot of people look at the african—american diaspora and, you know, see what happens there in the united states as an example of what might happen in other parts of the world. and in april, the house judiciary committee in the united states voted
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on a bill which would set up a federal commission to study, as they put it, "the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery in the united states," looking at various economic, political, educational and social discrimination and to develop appropriate remedies, it says, including potential reparations. now, that bill was approved and is awaiting a vote in the house of representatives. so do you sense that we are going to get some kind of movement on reparations in the united states? and, if so, what would the impact be? well, let me say it's a relay race. the caribbean at this moment is at the centre of this global discussion. what happened in the caribbean was very significant. civil society talking about this, demanding this, the rastafarian community, the pan—african community, speaking about reparations for over 100 years. what was critical in 2013 was that the governments of the caribbean finally came on board. the governments of the caribbean finally came on board and said,
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"we are now supporting this civil society movement." they had joined the cause. when that happened in the caribbean, it had tremendous consequences for the us, and therefore the us reparations movement was revitalised, reenergised, and, similarly, they form a national african american reparations commission, modelled on the caribbean case, calling upon their governments, as we did in the caribbean, to come on board. let me tell you what jamaica's minister of sport, youth and culture, 0livia grange, has said. "we're hoping for reparatory justice in all forms. redress is well overdue. better speak with one voice and have one considered position by all people of african descent, the caribbean, the united states and brazil." that's the problem. there's no united position on this. you don't speak with one voice. but i don't know if we need it. reparatoryjustice has always been a very broad tent... you don't think you need to speak with one voice,
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a voice, all people of african descent? we have never needed to speak with one voice. we have never had one voice. but why? because there's tremendous intellectual diversity within the african—american community. there's tremendous conceptual and pedagogical variations across the dynamics of the black world and the brown world. now, to expect one voice is to actually hinder your progress. but surely not — everybody of african descent, regardless of which continent they live, the americas, where many enslaved africans ended up, countries like brazil, the caribbean here, europe, all over the world... we all know what we want, but there are different ways to conceptualise it, there are different ways to proceed. there are multiple roads leading to the roundabout, and we don't want necessarily to have everyone walking like sheep down a narrow path. we are a community of multiple experiences and diversities. in the us, for example, there's a very strong argument that says, "we want cash in hand as part of the repayment of the plunder of the african—american community.
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we have been plundered, we can demonstrate it, we've lost our land, we've lost our businesses, we've had the personal victimisation. we want to have this repaired in hard cash." in the caribbean, we've not taken that path. we have said our reparatoryjustice model is about development of our infrastructures. we want more schools, we want public health infrastructures, we want to have systems to allow development to become endemic within our societies. and that is the focus of our reparation. then take, for example, what happened in tulsa. a white community goes into a black town... you're talking about back in the 1920s in the united states. burnt the town to the ground, burnt the town to the ground. hundreds of families lost their cash and their capital. it was a very middle—class, affluent african—american community. they were rising up from slavery, pursuing development, lost their capital. that has to be compensated
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for in the context of cash repayments and compensation. in the caribbean, we are looking at a different circumstance. we have the highest percentage of diabetes, hypertensions in the world per capita, the result of these sugar plantations where you consume what you grow — you grow sugar, you consume it. now, we all have a sugar problem in the caribbean, because we've been eating sugar as a meal and exposed to that, and now we are all addicted to it with the consequences. we have to repair that. so you say every community has to go about the way that reparations are made in their own fashion that suits their community. absolutely. let me tell you what the black entertainment billionaire robertjohnson in the united states says. he wants $14 trillion in reparations. he says, "we as a country, the united states, must atone by paying back black people of all stripes, the rich ones, poor ones and the middle." i mean, even people like oprah
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winfrey or lebronjames could be paid under this principle. when somebody like that makes that kind of comment, it invites mockery, doesn't it, that the likes of oprah winfrey should be paid? well, i'm not sure it does. what it invites is a call for understanding. what we do know is that we are all united around the reparatory justice movement. what we also know is that there is a diversity as to how and to where and what have you. but the beneficiaries of those crimes, the western states and the institutions and the corporations, ought not to be in a position to determine how we perceive reparatory justice. it is for us, the descendants of the victim class, and all of us are victimised as a race. if you consider the slave
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trade, when the europeans went into africa to kidnap and to pillage the labour force of africa, they were not looking at the income distribution of the peoples they were enslaving. they were agricultural people, they were teachers, they were artisans, they were politicians. all kinds of people were swept up into slave trade and brought to the sugar plantations. they didn't consider the diversity of occupation and wealth at the time, so why should they be concerned about it today? it has always been a feature of the victimisation of the black community. all right, but how do you make the case now? look, here we are in barbados, a middle—income country. yes. so it doesn't qualify for a lot of development aid. so when you have somebody like rory stewart — who, in the united kingdom, was a former secretary for international development — and he says he would have liked to target uk aid to the poorest people in the world, rather than paying reparations, "in some weird belief," he says, "that we're going to somehow undo 300, 400 years of colonial history by writing cheques to people." well, there you go again, there you go again. the narrative of those who believe that they ought to determine for the victims
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of this process how they should... but, no, he's saying, "let me pay it to poorer people in the world," target uk aid there, rather than to the relatively affluent people in barbados. zeinab, in the face of emancipation legislation, the slave owners were saying to the british and the european parliaments, "you don't need to pass emancipation legislation. so many of the enslaved people are doing well. so many of them now have their own home, they have property, and then a percentage of them are free, and they are doing so well. all you have to do is extend slavery longer and more and more enslaved will become better off." these are arguments, these are positions. so there you are, chair of this caribbean regional commission looking at the issue of reparations. the first step you wanted was a formal apology from the former colonial colonisers, like the united kingdom and so on. you haven't got very far, have you? well, because there has always been
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two approaches to this matter. the oppressor class, the beneficiaries of these crimes against humanity, have always preferred to have a settlement approach. look what germany has just done in namibia. that wasn't reparations, that was a settlement... that was what germany paid in regards to the genocide... the genocide in namibia in africa. the early 20th century, the herero people. and that has become the model for many european countries indeed. the americans are ambivalent about it. but here's the issue. you have to say that reparations is a process. it's not an event. settlement is an event. you can show that you have suffered harm, the harm has become systemic, those who have benefited from that harm could actually say, "here's $1 billion, take it and go away, that's closure." reparation says no... so what do you want, then? well, first of all, reparations is a process.
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it begins with the step that says we admit responsibility for the crimes we have committed. you don't get that, though, do you? you just get expressions of regret... and that's a scandal. david cameron, the british prime minister in 2015, when he went to jamaica, no apology. because the european governments prefer to say, "we regret very much what we have done." and that's the end of the conversation. reparations says, "we apologise for what we have done. now let us work together in partnership and work through the consequences of what we have done." so reparations is really a partnership relationship that may lead to development, but, importantly, it leads to the elevation of those who continue to suffer the harm. we don't want necessarily to be locked into a discourse around settlements. we want to speak about the process of reparations, the development consequences, development... so development money for countries where... partnerships. ..there were enslaved africans... if you take barbados... that's what you want? yes! 0k.
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this is where the british established their model. what was the model? the british came here in the 1620s. the following decade, the british said, "all black people on this island and those who are coming here in the future will be classified as non—human. they're going to be classified as property, real estate and chattel." first step. second step, 1661 — britain use this island as a laboratory for the constitutional development of slavery, which says all african peoples are of a violent, barbarous nature and should not be governed under the same laws as christians. thus, the white supremacy. this is a laboratory. from here, it moved across the caribbean. yep. it moved to the united states. so, having this interview here, you have come to the source of the crime that we are trying to adjudicate today in the broad context of reparations. and i keep on asking you this, but you're not making much progress, are you. . . yes, we are making enormous progress. ..on a government to government level at all? we are making significant progress.
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we do not expect this to happen overnight. but you've said you've been arguing for it for 100 years. absolutely! so what has the uk government, for instance, said on reparations? the uk government has always said that slavery was not a crime, that slavery was legal — "we did nothing wrong, we're not apologising. you're not shifting minds, are you? well, we are trying, and we will always try, but here's the issues in it. it took us all of the 19th century to uproot slavery from the world. the haitians first in 1804, through to the english, the french, the dutch, and ultimately the portuguese in brazil. it took 100 years of struggle to end slavery. now, then it took us another 100 years to convert freedom into civil rights. it took us all of the 20th century... so you're saying patience. it took us all of the 20th century to get civil rights. if it take us all of the 21st century to have reparatory justice. .. you think you'll get that. ..generation by generation, the struggle goes on. all right. but let me ask you,
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while you're waiting for official recognition from governments, what about the role of business? we've seen in the united kingdom, for instance, the insurance company lloyd's and also brewer king apologise for their roles in the transatlantic slave trade and offered financial support to charities promoting diversity and inclusion. glasgow university in scotland in 2019 said it will raise nearly $30 million... i brokered that relationship. yeah, yeah. have a caribbean centre for development research. i mean, that kind of piecemeal approach — is that acceptable? yes, but here we go again, where the beneficiaries of those crimes are admitting that they have committed the crimes, but they wish to control the narrative, the policies and the consequences. when lloyd's of london, barclays bank, the royal bank of scotland, the midland bank, when all of these major financial institutions in the insurance sector and the financial services sector, the banking sector, all admitted that their companies and corporations rose up from the foul environment of slavery, what they wish to do as a consequence
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is to tell us what they are going to do about it. all right. and so they put what we call something on the table, an offensive public relations act to say, "we will put £1 million in this community charity," but they're not talking to us. all right. and they might not wish to talk to us right now, but they will have to talk to us sooner or later. because the consciousness here has been...awakened by historical discourses, by the realisation that this long journey, this 394—year journey with the british monarchy, has done us harm. we have not had any benefits to be associated with... what harm does the queen do as being head of state? she's a very benign presence. look at what happened with the windrush. no power. look at what happened to the windrush people. we fought for the british empire in the second world war. we kicked the butt out of hitler and his third reich. we won the war, then
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we were invited to britain. my parents�* generation came to britain to clean up the mess that the british...the british had experienced from all the bombings of the germans, and the first opportunity, they were surrounded by deepening institutional racism that hurt those caribbean people to the core. they appealed to the monarchy. they appealed to the government. there was silence because that is the history. but let me tell you, there's a photograph on the cover of my recent book, britain's black debt, and it shows queen elizabeth visiting the belle sugar plantation in 1966, february, on the eve of independence. and what did the queen do? she came to barbados to visit a sugar plantation that was owned by her first cousin, the earl of harewood. and here's the earl and the queen on their sugar plantation in barbados in february 1966, a plantation that was bought by the families of the earl's... right, so... 1782 with 300 slaves.
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so it's the symbolism of that kind of act, all right. powerful symbolism. what about the commonwealth, though? because there are many who say that it's... philip murphy, director of the institute of commonwealth studies, says, "the commonwealth has an admirable record of progressive causes, most notably the struggle against apartheid." would you want barbados to leave the commonwealth too? no, i live in a modern world, i live in a realistic environment. the commonwealth is a very significant institution. there are challenges, of course, with most institutions. the commonwealth is made up of the categories of the british empire. there's the white commonwealth, there's a brown commonwealth, and there's a black commonwealth, all together under the rubric "the commonwealth". there are some serious challenges within the relationship and the elements within the commonwealth. but on the whole, i believe, on balance, at this moment in time, it is a force for progress. you, professor sir hilary beckles, are one of barbados�*s most distinguished citizens, vice—chancellor of the university of the west indies. could you conceivably become the new head of state here in barbados?
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no, i don't think so. i think we have a model, and that model is that our heads of states ought to be diplomats, to be people who transcend all of the social forces and the contradictions of society. my role in the society is to identify those contradictions, promote them, build advocacy around them, explore all the challenges we are facing to make the society a better place. we have to reengineer the society. i see my role as an engineer, not a diplomat. professor sir hilary beckles, thank you very much indeed for coming on hardtalk. thank you.
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hello. sunny spells aplenty on tuesday, but there'll be showers around, too. and in fact it's going to stay quite showery for the rest of the week, and, if anything, it'll turn even more unsettled towards the end of the week. now, thejet stream's not on our side. we're on the cool side of the jet. the jet stream separates the cool air from the north and the warm air to the south, and it also sends weather systems in our direction. so, actually much of western and central europe is feeling the effects of that cool air. you can see the yellows there, whereas the hot air is in place across the balkans, greece, turkey and into russia. in excess of 40 degrees there. obviously not for us, not that we'd want it anyway. but this is what it looks like early in the morning on tuesday. a lot of clear weather, sunshine right from the word go, but quite nippy in the morning in some places. around five degrees in rural spots. so, the weather map for tuesday shows that we're in between weather systems. more weather systems out in the atlantic heading our way,
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but in between means that we'll see those scattered showers here and there. very light winds as well. now, watch where the showers form, some across the south almost along these distinct lines here. elsewhere, a lot of sunshine around, but if you're caught underneath that area of showers, it could be very, very wet, thunder and lightning as well. but like i say, fine sunny weather for the majority of the uk, and temperatures getting up to around 20 or so. now, the showers could linger into the evening hours for some of us on tuesday. here's a look at wednesday's weather map, and there's a weak weather front approaching from the west. it'll bring some showers to parts of northern ireland, scotland, too, and there'll be one or two showers breaking out elsewhere. but once again, plenty of sunny spells, so it's really sort of all or nothing really over the next few days. temperatures could get up
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to around 22 whether you're in the south or the north. now, towards the end of the week, so here's thursday and friday, a low pressure is sitting on top of us. that inevitably means strengthening winds. they could be quite strong and gusty in the south of the country, and they will bring quite changeable weather. so, frequent showers on the way. now, you can see the outlook, really not much changes overall for the foreseeable future. that's it from me. bye— bye.
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welcome to newsday, reporting live from singapore, i'm karishma vaswani. the headlines: an olympic sprinter from belarus who was ordered home takes refuge at the polish embassy in tokyo and is granted a humanitarian visa. i'm sarah mulkerrins with all the latest from the games in tokyo, where this morning's athletics is set for a 400 metres hurdles battle between norway's world record holder karsten warholm, and the usa's rai benjamin. as the delta variant leads to higher covid infection rates across the world rich countries are urged to share their excess vaccine doses.
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