Friday, March 23, 2007

Fulfilling the emancipation promise

On Sunday, March 25, the world will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-atlantic slave trade. Slavery itself would be abolished nearly 20 years later.

As we people of African descent grapple with the significance of the day, let's remember the millions of men, women and children who were forcibly removed from their homes and shipped across the Atlantic to help build the "New World".
One out of every three persons didn't survive the trip.

We were reduced to a 'tabula rasa', a people whose origins were erased. Unlike other enslaved people who were able to practice their customs and religions, we were prohibited from doing so openly and therefore the world of the coloniser became our world. But without roots, a tree will fall.

There are many persons who say, why rehash the past? Slavery is history, let it die a natural death. Some honestly believe that to dwell on the past is counter-productive; others hide from the reality of slavery out of embarrassment and shame. We've allowed the brutality and racial polarisation of that period to permeate our psyches, and we've been dragging that insidious, virus-like shame with us from century to century, from generation to generation. Two hundred years after slavery we have made some progress, but we haven't yet fulfilled the full promise of emancipation. Hiding from our past is not the way to fulfill it.

Since an apology for slavery is unlikely to come, and any reparation for the suffering of our ancestors would be immeasuarable, it is up to us to come to terms with our past and to forge a positive future. We owe it to coming generations to end the cycle of shame. Remember, we are the children of kings and queens.

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