A delegation of British Baptists visited Jamaica in May to apologize for the role their ancestors played in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. At first it sounded like some serious crocodile speak, without the tears. The same British Baptists attended the historic gathering of the Baptist World Alliance in Ghana in 2006. This was the event at which Rev. Neville Callam was elected as General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.
At the Ghana Assembly, the British Baptist leadership refused to join other Baptists from Europe and Africa in apologizing in an act confession and repentance for their ancestors’ role in slavery. According to news coming out of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB), that refusal to apologize in Ghana caused a dispute when the delegation returned home. The Black British Baptists it is said, threatened to start a separate Black Baptist Union.
Read the full text of the Apology and watch the BMS video at British Baptists Apologize For Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The General Secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, the Rev. Karl Johnson in his response to the historic move of the British Baptists spoke of how sceptisism and suspicion attended the announcement that an apology was forthcoming from the British Baptists. He couldn’t have put it better. During my recent visit to Jamaica, the feedback I got from some persons was, ‘so what now’?
And on the day of Jamaica’s celebration of Emancipation, I pondered the apology of my British sisters and brothers. And I thought of how empty this apology will be if certain things are not done. Soon. Fact is, no one is convinced by apologies without reparations of some kind.
Reparations mean many different things to different persons. Usually, the first thing that comes to mind is monetary compensation. The debate still rages about whether or not, White Europeans and Americans who benefited from the capture, trade and enslavement of Africans should be made to make some kind of financial compensation to their descendants.
While I do not rule out that option, I am more interested in long-term efforts. Actions that aim for the root of the problems that keeps the Black descendants of enslaved Africans at a disadvantage. Some of the ways that this apology might make a difference includes the following reparations.
Visible Efforts At Eradicating Racism At Home…And Abroad
Actively Oppose The Modern Day Slave Trade
Repatriate Documents And Other Resources Related To Baptist Work in Jamaica (a specific request of the Jamaica Baptist Union)
Oppose Unfair Trade Practices against small and already disadvantaged countries like Jamaica
If the just mentioned matters were not included in the ‘next-steps’ after the apology, then talk of building better relations with Black Baptists in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean will be just that, ‘talk’.