WHY ARE REPARATIONISTS SO SCARED OF A GOOD DE­BATE?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

By Michael Ding­well

You know, I wasn’t even go­ing to bother waste my time re­flect­ing on a re­cent repa­ra­tions dis­cus­sion that I was in­vited to, but I think I must; at least for the sake of those who are try­ing to con­vince the rest of us that the call is worth tak­ing se­ri­ously. In my kind­ness, I will of­fer some help to those de­mand­ing repa­ra­tions!

One of the rea­sons why those who are hav­ing so many chal­lenges try­ing to con­vince the ma­jor­ity of us that the cause for repa­ra­tions is even rel­e­vant is sim­ply on ac­count of its onesid­ed­ness.

Those who con­stantly try to make the case for repa­ra­tions don’t seem to un­der­stand that most of us can see through this one-sid­ed­ness very clearly. This is why the case has failed to gather much sup­port.

Dur­ing the “dis­cus­sion” I got a first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of why these repa­ra­tions de­bates or­ga­nized by pro-repa­ra­tions peo­ple usu­ally end up as an at­tempt to con­vert any­one op­posed to the cause–whether that per­son is a guest or a mem­ber of the au­di­ence. In and of it­self, I sup­pose that isn’t re­ally such a bad thing.

I could hardly cat­e­go­rize the pro­gramme as very bal­anced be­cause the prorepa­ra­tions side was al­lowed the bulk of the al­loted time for speak­ing whereas I was al­lowed only five min­utes. How­ever, I did get the chance to put out my main point: that those ad­vo­cat­ing repa­ra­tions are not see­ing slav­ery the way the typ­i­cal per­son of the time did. This, I ex­plained to the com­plete be­wil­der­ment of the rest of the panel, is why they con­tinue un­suc­cess­fully to push this is­sue.

But enough of the sup­posed in­tent of the pro­gramme; what I re­ally wanted to do is ad­vise our repa­ra­tions ad­vo­cates on how to strengthen their cause through a true de­bate, within the con­text of my ex­pe­ri­ence.

First, when de­bat­ing with an ar­dent anti-repa­ra­tionist like me, it re­ally isn’t a good idea to try to con­vince me with ar­gu­ments about how “more evil was our slav­ery ex­pe­ri­ence” com­pared to the en­slave­ment of other peo­ples. This, as I told that panel, is re­ally a moot point–a straw man. Also, when spe­cific court cases are go­ing to be used to win a de­bate for repa­ra­tions, it would be good to ex­plain them–if not for the sake of en­light­en­ing the an­tirepa­ra­tionist, then at least for the sake of the au­di­ence.

Oth­er­wise, that too would be another straw man. In­deed, too many straw men aren’t good for any de­bate.

Of course, I need not ex­plain the need for ad­vo­cates who or­ga­nize these “de­bates” to give the op­pos­ing side equal time to make its case. If not, peo­ple will see the “de­bate” for what it re­ally is: another lec­ture. Fi­nally, when de­bat­ing with the anti-repa­ra­tionist it is not a good idea to bring up his race or an­ces­try. This shows a weak­ness of pro-reparationists as it shows that ef­fec­tive ar­gu­ments can­not be found for repa­ra­tions, there­fore an at­tempt must be made to at­tack the anti-repa­ra­tionist him­self.

Any­way, I re­ally do hope that the day will come when we will be treated to a real de­bate on repa­ra­tions in this coun­try as I have yet to en­counter one. In­deed, I will go out on a limb and dare any­one to truly de­bate. I am avail­able, if any­one from the pro-repa­ra­tions camp is so brave!

Chair­man of CARICOM’s repa­ra­tion com­mit­tee,

Sir Hi­lary Beck­les.

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