British Treasury tweet on slavery

Thanks to the biases of the Western international media, most members of Canada’s Black community missed an opportunity to spike their “celebration” of Black History Month with a dose of spectacular farce.

The source of that unwelcome idiocy was an unenlightened official of the British Treasury who caused the following weekly “surprising #FridayFact” to be posted on his department’s Twitter page on February 09, 2018:

“Millions of you helped end the slave trade through your taxes”.

The tweet was removed in its entirety after a few hours.

As further evidence of his extremely limited intellectual prowess, the official added the following Trumpian comments which demonstrated, beyond a shadow of a doubt, his ideal suitability for a cabinet position as the American President’s Secretary for Public Information, Public Education and Historical Analysis:

“Did you know? In 1833, Britain used £20 million, 40% of its national budget, to buy freedom for all slaves in the Empire. The amount of money borrowed for the Slavery Abolition Act was so large that it wasn’t paid off until 2015. Which means that living British citizens helped pay to end the slave trade.”

Why should the total payment of £20 million to the 46,000 slave owners, as compensation for the loss of their “human capital”, be a matter of national pride for British taxpayers?

The Chairman of the Caribbean Reparations Commission, Sir Hilary Beckles estimates that that payment now justifies the claim for a slavery/slave trade reparations debt that is the modern equivalent £76 billion or US$106 billion. Another analyst puts the figure closer to £17billion.

The subsequent outburst of anger among Black Britons was blistering. One such reaction to the preposterously absurd tweet is worth quoting:

 “So basically, my father and his children and grandchildren have been paying taxes to compensate those who enslaved our ancestors, and you want me to be proud of that fact. Are you f**king insane???”

So, why is there such a high degree of ignorance and insensitivity concerning the material and psychological aspects of slavery and the slave trade?

That same degree of ignorance and insensitivity characterizes the international community’s neglect of the major significance of Haiti’s past and present circumstances.

It is rare that the media ever ventures to publicize the fact that Haiti was forced to pay to France, over almost one hundred and fifty years, reparations amounting to 90 million gold francs. That massive attack on the Haitian patrimony was imposed for the loss of the trade, the slaves and the plantations previously owned by French nationals. The total amount of those reparations is today worth about US$21 billion.

It is even less known and publicized that fourteen African countries are still paying several forms of reparations to France for the “losses” caused by those countries’ accession to independence from France more than fifty years ago. Direct French control of those countries’ national reserves is reported to include about US$500 billion currently.

It is therefore logical that the warped thinking behind the tweet posted on the British treasury’s Twitter Page should provoke a lot more than anger and incredulity.

Rather, it also shows that, in today’s industrialized societies, ignorance and insensitivity with respect to the nature and the impact of slavery are far more widespread than most people realize.

And that sad state of affairs also exists right here in Canada, not just in the USA, the United Kingdom, France, and other European countries.

Those are the countries whose economic development was built over centuries on the backs of Black slaves and was fortified by the other lucrative structures of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

In that context, the British Treasury tweet was a major development that should have attracted widespread attention during Canadians’ “celebration” of Black History Month.

How is it possible that this tragic and almost comic absurdity escaped public attention in Canada and in many other western countries?

Clearly, the Western international media establishment does not consider such information and analysis important. It is not just a matter of ignorance of the main facts, even though that is indeed a significant factor.

Another very relevant factor is that that establishment does not want to acknowledge, far less publicize those embarrassing truths.

And that same establishment is not facing any major pressure to give those embarrassing truths the public attention they deserve.

What are we going to do about it?