WHY ARE REPARATIONISTS SO SCARED OF A GOOD DEBATE?
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.