Map of slave-holding estates
Racism

Racism, compensation and me

The above image is a 19th-century map of Jamaica superimposed onto google maps. The dots are slave-holding estates. One was owned by Abraham Anthony who kept between four and 16 slaves on his unnamed estate in St Catherines, Jamaica. Someone who shared my surname, and is therefore a very distant relative, profited from racism. Any latent hopes that I could separate myself from the wrongs of our colonial past evaporated with that fact. But to what extent can any British people avoid responsibility for such crimes?

My personal example has a broader application. On 15 February 1836 Abraham Anthony claimed £299 13s 8d (£33,500) compensation for being forced to end slavery by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 that was pushed through Parliament by William Wilberforce and others. Indeed, the UK government paid out £20 million in compensation at the time, which equated to 40 per cent of the British government’s budget and would be roughly £16.5 billion today. Since it was such a large sum, the government set up various forms of borrowing to finance it. These loans were only finally repaid in 2015. The treasury has effectively been paying interest on slavery compensation for the last two centuries. Many families profited from it but every citizen is connected to it through the government’s primary income stream – taxation.

Therefore, as we mourn with those that mourn the specific cases of racism such as George Floyd and Armaud Arbery, we must also reflect on our own negative history and respond with positive change. So, with this in mind, what follows is a series of posts on racism – ranging from my own history to the bible’s theological commentary on the subject.

In the meantime, you can look into your family history here:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/

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