BVI News

COMMENTARY: Will UK make amends for slavery, colonialism in BVI?

By Benito Wheatley, Contributor

As the United Kingdom (UK) confronts the issue of racism in British society and the country’s longstanding problem of injustice toward people of African descent, it should not be forgotten that the people of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are also victims of Britain’s dark legacy of slavery and colonialism.

The local population is primarily descended from the enslaved Africans brought to the colony to work on plantations by the British via the slave trade. The BVI also remains tied to the UK under the political designation of British Overseas Territory that is a modification of its earlier colonial status.

The UK has not made amends for its longstanding wrongs toward the people of the BVI. When slavery legally ended in 1834, the UK compensated British slave owners on the mainland and throughout the British Empire for the cost of each person of African descent they owned as a slave. However, no compensation or reparations were paid to the newly freed people or their descendants who were left poor and to fend for themselves.

181-year debt! $20B borrowed to pay off slave owners

While some may argue that slavery ended a long time ago, the $20.6 billion borrowed by the UK to pay off British slave owners across the empire was repaid by UK tax payers only in 2015 after 181 years of installments.

No such financial obligation was made to compensate the formerly enslaved people in the BVI and elsewhere, or their descendants, for the dehumanisation and loss of life suffered during 200 years of slavery or for their subsequent gross colonial neglect after slavery ended for a period of 105 years in which the BVI became the poorest part of the British Leeward Islands Colony.

Insult to injury

What makes Britain’s treatment of the people of the BVI even more shameful, is that just two years after the UK paid off its debt incurred to compensate slave owners for the persons they enslaved, the UK Government decided in 2017 not to provide direct grants for reconstruction to the BVI as an Overseas Territory to help rebuild after Hurricanes Irma and Maria inflicted catastrophic damage to the islands. Even the UK’s offer of a loan guarantee to the local Government on which to borrow for recovery did not materialise.

If the UK is sincere about a positive relationship with the BVI, it will make amends with the people of the islands for the dehumanisation of slavery; for not compensating the formerly enslaved people for their enslavement under Britain, while at the same time compensating slave owners for the persons they had enslaved; and for the gross neglect of the people of the islands for 105 years after slavery ended that triggered the Great March of 1949 against Britain.

Explanation needed

Furthermore, the UK should explain why the UK Government in 2017 was unwilling to provide direct grants for reconstruction to help the people of the BVI rebuild after the devastation of two category 5 hurricanes, when just two years earlier in 2015, UK taxpayers completed repayment of the loan of $20.6 billion that was borrowed to compensate British slave owners for each person of African descent they enslaved.

The BVI’s upcoming annual August Emancipation Celebration to commemorate the legal end of slavery is an opportunity for the UK to begin the process of redressing its longstanding wrongs toward the people of the BVI.

This can begin with offering an official apology for the enslavement of their foreparents and post-slavery colonial neglect, and a commitment to begin talks on how Britain can make the people of the BVI whole for its wrongs toward them. Doing so can help the UK and BVI move past the long unaddressed issue of slavery and to take further steps in addressing the legacy of colonialism and eliminating its last vestiges on the islands.

Benito Wheatley is a Policy Fellow at the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge. He can be contacted at benitowheatley@gmail.com

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51 Comments

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  1. @Benito says:

    Quite a few errors here Sir. First the UK was not “unwilling to provide direct grants for reconstruction” as you suggest. The UK Government was prevented from doing so because of OECD rules. Here is a link to an article where this is explained:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/13/uk-to-provide-further-25m-aid-to-hurricane-irma-hit-bvi-and-anguilla

    The loan guarantee “did not materialise” because the BVI governments (both previous VIP and the current NDP administrations) have both declined to sign up to the terms of the loan guarantee. The UK, which must account to UK tax-payers/voters, reasonably offered the guarantee with strings attached, to safeguard their risk. The BVI has a history of financial mismanagement, no-bid contracts, massive overspends on infrastructure projects and longstanding overdue audits. Against this background, the UK decided not to effectively write a blank cheque. The BVI government didnt want to sign up to the terms and that is the reason, and the only reason, why the loan guarantee did not materialise. The terms offered were reasonable: they would have ensured that the people of the BVI actually got the infrastructure development and repairs paid for, and to ensure a certain few well connected corrupt persons did not pocket millions.

    A good arguable position can certainly be made out for reparations, however misleading the public in this way is unhelpful. Get your facts straight if you want to be taken seriously.

    BVI has had a massive income generating goldmine since 1984, tens of billions of dollars has come into the Territory. These islands should literally have streets paid with gold. Ask yourself where did that money go and who benefited? I would say you might want those crooks first to make reparations for robbing these islands.

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    • Don't be fooled by UK says:

      Mr. Wheatley appears to be correct on this matter. Her Majesty’s Treasury confirmed in 2017 that the UK Government could provide direct grants for hurricane recovery from its regular budget to Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and the Turks that were not eligible for monies under the UK’s specific Aid Budget where spending is governed by the OECD’s official development assistance (ODA) rules. This is why Anguilla received a £70 million grant from the UK Government from its other budget lines. However, the UK decided not to offer a direct grant for recovery and reconstruction to the British Virgin Islands, while releasing £25 million to Dominica and £14 to Antigua and Barbuda to rebuild from the 2017 hurricanes. Antigua is classified as a high-income country.

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    • UK Excuses! says:

      The UK is always making excuses about why it is not helping more on recovery. They are always throwing around corruption to give a reason not to help the people.

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    • Really says:

      For 200 years you have had self rule and you have made nothing of yourselves. You constantly seek free money and when it is given to you, the few steal it all. Where is all the money that has been given and where is the money that came through the financial sector? By the way the financial sector given to you by the whites has been reparations enough. You squander every nickel through schemes that are only created to line the pockets of the governing few. What has your African brethren that sold your forefathers into slavery done for you. Where are the reparations from them. You are a soulless lot.

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      • @eally says:

        If only you had a mind, soul and intellect that was wired human.

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      • 38 Spesh says:

        Just like my name you can use it to wash out your mouth. You SEE YOUR S***KING D***Y MODDA ON THIS STORY? SOULLESS? The MASTERS of PAEDOPHILIA, RAPE and INCEST calling others soulless? Once agian stop talking bout YOUR MODDA like that she might be a w**ring dog but it is still your MODDA.

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      • @Really says:

        Two hundred years…is that a fact? Leave a group of people uneducated, penniless, in the middle of nowhere, after they were used as free labor for 400 years to build your economies, and magically they are supposed to manifest something out of…nothing? And we seek free money? We built your economies. Have you never heard that there is no such thing as a free lunch? You owe us for bleeding generations. And thirty-five years of a financial sector doesn’t compare to 400 years. So, please stop with the “we are so ungrateful and lazy” take. It doesn’t wash anymore. IF we are souless, you are as corrupt both morally and ethically as the bulk of the clients that utilize this financial sector.

        • Django says:

          Are we going to give the British reparations for the moey they spent buying our freedom? They borrowed 40% of their GDP to free our forefathers and only finished paying it back 5 years ago. No other country did that.

    • Consistency says:

      Mr. Wheatley has been consistent in pointing out that the UK Government chose not to provide the BVI with grants, despite confirmation from the UK Treasury that funds could be given as a separate package from Aid Monies. Only Anguilla was given direct grants from the UK Treasury. BVI did not as a decision of the UK Government.

      https://www.thestkittsnevisobserver.com/bvi-accuses-uk-govt-of-trust-betrayal-heavy-handedness/

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  2. Dr. Doolittle says:

    These Wheatley boys are overrated. Tired!!! Error!!!

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  3. BVI to make amends to the world... says:

    Will the BVI make amends to the world for all the public money (for schools, hospitals, welfare…) stolen to people in need in many countries via financial “services”?

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  4. IslandBoi says:

    They’ve already made amends. The hundreds of millions of pounds in ‘lost’ tax revenue that has been allowed to be funneled to the BVI and other offshore jurisdictions that have been largely funding our comfortable way of life for decades.
    And it should also be noted that slaves were fairly purchased from African slave traders – so perhaps the BVI should also be seeking reparations from our African cousins who captured and enslaved our ancestors to begin with.

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    • @IslandBoi says:

      It must also be accurately corrected that 99% of the humans that left the African shores and turned into slaves were kidnapped at gun point by non African, mainly by Portugese, Spaniards, Europeans and Arabs.

      The 1% were individuals who went afoul of community regulations, were incarcerated in some form and were subsequently loaned out to Europeans as servants, not sild as slaves, and they were never returned.

      Authentic history has been whitewashed to propergate those misconceptions, to project Africans in a negative light, and to ease the conscience of the European and Arabs perpertrators.

      Indeed, if Africans were selling their people on the scale they want you to believe, why were there continuous revolts from the beginning of the trade, and for centuries, against the trade all across Africa?

      He writes your history will continue to brainwash you of the facts.

      Imagine, even the tour guides at the castles of no return are taught the lies to continue the perpetuation of lies. Wake up people, and dig deeper to ind the truths, they exist.

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      • Correction says:

        99% is completely incorrect. According to the UN, the majority of black slaves were sold to white and arab slavers by black slavers. Makes sense really. The whites and arabs had no interest in wasting time and money chasing after people in the interior.

    • @IslandBoi says:

      Will you use the same argument for the services provided by the Channel Islands?

      While some of the slaves were no doubt purchased from African slave traders, I hardly think that the word “fairly” can be applied! And what about those that were captured directly by white traders? Or doesn’t that part suit your narrative?

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  5. mmmario says:

    I believe that people in the bvi need a wakeup call. to this day, you have some Tolian calling themselves British, they should be ashamed. Tolian a not British we are a direct descendant of Africans which has nothing to do with Britain. The only reason we have ties with the Brits its because our ancestors were enslaved by them…I noticed how many love to call themselves British. Do you really want to know the truth if you are British or not? ask anyone in the UK i you are British. We are been brainwashed here in the BVI in believing that we could be part of the British society. BVI Think again. We whould end that rubish about us been British.

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    • Bob says:

      I was going to ask, have you even been to Britain? But your comment shows that you haven’t. Next time you’re in London, have a look around…stop living in the past.

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    • At mmmario says:

      Are you kidding. African Slaves literally built the british empire and the economy. Lets not talk about the things that were stolen from africa besides slaves. Blacks are as good as heirs of Britain.

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  6. mmmario says:

    Question? Why would the people that enslaved us for profit would want to help us in the first place????

    We need to think with our god-given coconut. what we need to do is the shame England to ground and force them to pay u reparation for enslaving us and once they pay us, we should build our future ourselves.

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  7. Stainlessbloke says:

    Question. Who owns all the land?

    • Another question... says:

      How does the value of the land compare to the value of the great empires that were built off the backs of stoleb/tortured slaves in the countries where blacks are still being treated to this day as slaves.

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      • @another question" says:

        It does not, but that was your forefathers not you not for 3 generations at least, you are reaping the benefits of their struggle yet still want to complain and whine like a spolit child, think what your forefathers woukld of thought of your riches, your land.

  8. Whatever says:

    “The local population is primarily descended from the enslaved Africans brought to the colony to work on plantations by the British via the slave trade.” What????? I thought they were indigenous. Can’t have it both ways.

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  9. Popo says:

    Perhaps we should ask for reparations from the African tribal leaders who sold our forefathers to the white men and Arabs in the first place.

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    • true says:

      This is very true and usually left out when people start talking about the slave trade.

      Another tricky point is the compensation now your forefathers deserved it and more but the genertaions now are far better off than they would be if they were born in Africa, hard but true facts.

      If payments for repatrations are made then it must include giving up crown land and going back to Africa where your forefather and mothers were stolen from and sold by their own country men to whites, arabs and slavers.

      Apologies are not worth the paper they are written on unless they provide something…

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      • Not true says:

        Do you know what africa was like before colonisation? Check your history. Africa was the pride of the world. Remember civilisation started there…they were dar advanced in construction, sciences, the art, culture and were very rich. They were not behaving like monkeys as some would have you believe. The colonisers did not make them better off as his-story has brainwashed you to believe. At least look up Timbuktu and Mansa Musa for a start. If Africa is badly off today, it is because of colonisation that they are still trying to break away from without having to submit billions to the countries of their colonisers every year or being under threat of having cement thrown down their pipes or having their leaders killed as terrorists because they are calling for the uniting of africa and for the introduction of an african currency that is NOT part of a fiat system (I.e. as worthless as the paper it is printed on) but is backed by actual gold reserves. Look that up too.

        • false says:

          Africa beforew colonization is like Africa in the middle of the continent , yes Egypt and Mali but these are in the north and were colonised by Arbas and Romans over 2000 years ago, so if Africa is so advanced why did it fall so quickly, becasue of the tribes and the mentality of tribes all over the world, they want it all for themselves just as we see in emerging nations around the world no matter your skin colour power corrupts ALL.

        • Balance says:

          If we get reparations from the UK for wrongs in the past does Britain get reparations from Italy, Holland, Germany, France and Norway to pay for them invading Britain and enslaving their people?
          Do the Ibos in Nigeria give money to their neighbors because they stole their slaves from them? Do we give reparations to the Caribs in Dominica because we have their land in BVI?

      • @True says:

        No one knows what Africa would have been like because it was colonized. So, your comments sound very uneducated. If there was no Europe, Africa would have been one of the greatest continents on this planet. So please do read up on history instead of repeating hogwash that was passed on to you. I know it was hogwash because it was the same hogwash I was told. A Eurocentric approach to education does none of us any good. A realistic account of facts and history – the good, the bad and the ugly – is needed. And Europeans aren’t ready for a realistic accounting of facts…they can’t even discuss slavery without pointing to corrupt governments, crime, welfare, blah, blah. Anything to distract from the travesty of the human trafficking known as the Atlantic Slave Trade. No one needs their reparations. We want a real acknowledgment by them of the benefits they and their countries have realized from the slave trade and colonialism: the economies these two things built, the white privilege it created in the form of racism and segregation that is still being practiced. Then they need to understand how all that crap has shaped the entire world in which we live. Look at the poverty in India, Brazil, Columbia, Mexico (All of Latin and South America actually) the Caribbean, AFrica – everywhere they have landed…chaos, enslavement, and continuous poverty. They always think they are being blamed – we are not blaming, we know the facts because our societies have been forced to live with those facts for centuries. An admittance that Europeans/Caucasians are still benefiting from the human/cultural travesties that were set in motion hundreds of years ago is a good start. Then it will be a natural fact that All Lives Matter, not just their lives and livelihoods. So brother, please go read some history.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Why is the reading public still not being allowed to freely demonstrate their approval or disapproval on selective comments?

    BVI News administration, is this a standard journalistic policy of the institution?

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  11. Father Time says:

    The photo used was a…choice.

  12. mmmario says:

    Bob – I have been to England plenty of time enough to know that we are not British by any means. I feel pity for many of you that call your selves British.

    If you still insist that you are British, Please do an ancestry search and see if your roots come from Britain. You are been brainwashed. Even when a Black man is born in England he or she is not British. I am here to tell you that this es the case. Do a little reading about the Windrush generation. Do some reading go places and you will soon find out. The word British Overseas Territories is just a modification for the word Colonies. Bob – don’t be fooled.

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  13. mmmario says:

    Bob – Also, If you are trying to say that b/c they are Black people living in the UK – That doesn’t mean anything. If you are a Crocodile, no matter how long you live on the land you will never be a Lion.

    Since you are British you should have been compensated along with the slave owners in 2015.

    Bob- Don’t be fooled.

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  14. mmmario says:

    Whatever – While some may have been indigenous, the vast majority where slaves. We can be in possession of British passport but does it really mean we are British??? I personally don’t think so. Yes, take advantage of your British passport, but by no mean you are British.

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  15. E. Leonard says:

    UK slave owners brutalized and dehumanized Slaves. To justify this despicable and deplorable behaviour, they had to dehumanized Slaves. If they were not seen as humans, they convince themselves that it was ok to abuse and exploit them. It was a cesspool situation riddled with hypocrisy, eg, by day the women were viewed as chattel but raped at night. Dehumanizing Slaves/Blacks created White privilege.

    Caribbean slave labour built the UK’s economy and was the fuel that drove the engine that revolutionized its industrial capitalism industry. The only people that didn’t/have not benefited from Slavery were/are Slaves and their descendants. A study by the University College of London (UCL) revealed that the UK borrowed approx £20M to compensate approx 3,000 slave-owning families for their supposed lost of their property. The families of some prominent Britons have received compensation. The £20M loan (40% of UK budget at the time) was paid off in 2015. This means that Blacks in Britain were paying to pay off a loan that was borrowed to payoff slave owners who owned their foreparents.

    It is time to make Slaves and their descendants whole. Paying reparation is not a hypothetical, for both the UK, US and others have paid reparations, eg, Mau Mau in Kenya and Japanese interned by US during WWII. The UK failed to significantly contribute to the VI economic recovery after being devastated by two category 5 hurricanes in September 2017—Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Covid-19 was the most destabilizing event to hit the Caribbean region since WWII; it severely impacted the VI economy, resulting in significant unemployment. Yet the UK failed to deliver any assistance to help the unemployed.

    Moreover, after WWII, UK having been devastated by the war, was bailed out by the US under the Marshal Plan to the tune of approximately $5B. The UK needs to create a Marshal-style plan for its OTs impacted by Covid-19.

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    • @E. Leonard says:

      @E. Leonard, when are you going to get it you bloody bloak, not a £ of UK hard earned taxpayers money for the BVI. The BVI pay no taxes into the UK Treasury but want UK taxpayers money. Bunch of parasites. The UK has its own problems with Covid-19. No reparation today, no reparation tomorrow. Bunch of people just want free money for a problem that no one alive today had nothing to do with. In fact the UK has already paid reparation. It built roads, churches and schools, provided teachers, nurses, delivered electricity and water……etc.

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  16. Comfortable with the way we treat Africa ? says:

    How many billions of dollars escape each year from Africa to ensure our comfort here in the BVI ? Are you comfortable with the way we treat poor African countries via our financial services industry ?

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  17. mmmario says:

    British by a piece of paper/document but not by blood,heritage, ancestry.

    Not sure why the Black Caribbean who were colonized/enslaved for profit by the Brits will think that they can call themselves British. Remember, these territories are called British Overseas Territory words used instead of Colonies.Let’s not forget that.

  18. Patrotic bvi. says:

    Well this government is just using psychology for material gain. They want compensation to more money in their pocket.

  19. Secret Bear says:

    Grant in aid from the UK ended years ago, and at the time it was seen as a good thing because it meant the BVI could handle its own affairs and balance its own budget. Now it seems the territory is just standing around with its hands outstretched, wanting to be taken care of but refusing to be told what to do. Where’s the dignity of your ancestors? You can’t have it both ways.

  20. Diaspora says:

    Slave traders and slave owners made a tidy profit from free slave labour. The fruits of slave labour built the UK economy. And all the slaves got for their blood, sweat and tears were brutalizations, heart aches and more brutalizations. To heap cocobay pun top ah yaws, at Emancipation, the advocates for slave owners got approximately £20M in compensation, along with 4 years of apprentice service for slaves to pay for their freedom. The Slaves and their descendants didn’t and still has not yet even gotten a farthing.

    The £20M borrowed is worth approx £17B today and the debt was retired in 2015; it (£20M) equated go approximately 40% of the budget. This means that Black Britons were paying off a loan borrowed to pay slave owners. The slaves bought their freedom with 4 years of apprentice service and their descendants had to pay off the loan that bought their freedom. Slaves are hopefully resting in external peace but their descendants need to reap the compounded benefits for their exploited labour. The UK needs to make the Slaves whole by paying their descendants reparation. At both sides of the pond, slave labour created tens if not hundreds of millionaires in the US, UK, Portugal……..etc.

  21. Anonymous says:

    For those that think b/c the have a Brits passport, think again – what country would do the below to their citizens???? you still want to call yourselves British???

    UK slave owners brutalized and dehumanized Slaves. To justify this despicable and deplorable behaviour, they had to dehumanized Slaves. If they were not seen as humans, they convince themselves that it was ok to abuse and exploit them. It was a cesspool situation riddled with hypocrisy, eg, by day the women were viewed as chattel but raped at night. Dehumanizing Slaves/Blacks created White privilege.

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  22. Political Observer (PO) says:

    Slavery is the UK’s greatest sin and a permanent stain on its image and humanity or its inhumanity. It is an imprint in its DNA. The UK government with the support of a majority of its citizens supported and enabled the kidnapping and trading of captured West African Slaves. It supported the brutalizing, dehumanizing, abusing, exploiting, murdering, undernourishing, poorly housing and clothing, separating of families, eliminating of religion, and raping (women) of Slaves.

    Slaving trading and slave owning created much wealth for White investors. The blood, sweat and tears of Slave labour fueled the unprecedented growth of the UK’s economy and the seeding of the Industrial Revolution. The Slave trade ended in 1807 but Emancipation of physical slavery didn’t happen until 01 August 1834. However, the Slaves were not totally freed on this date, for they had to buy their freedom with another 4 years of servitude.

    Emancipation completed, the UK borrowed £20M to pay slave owners for their human property. A loan that was paid off in 2015. Doubt if many Black Britons knew that they were paying to payoff a loan that was borrowed to payoff slave owners who owned their forefathers/mothers. Nonetheless, to date neither Slaves nor their descendants have been paid a red cent for the free Slave labor that built personal wealth and the UK economy.

    The UK needs to do the right thing by 1)apologizing meaningfully for its Slavery sin and 2)paying the descendants of Slaves reparation. Reparation does not mean just paying every descendant cash. There are other methods of making the Slaves and descendants whole.

  23. belong says:

    nasty and sprinkled with truths and untruths, all a you. A nation is a human construct. BVIslanders now a dozen generations under British rule should have the right to be seen as British. Just as America is a nation, and not defined as composed of pasty limeys alone. The slaves were not 1% sold by africans, more like 90% at beginning and lower, but what is the point of that discussion? They should push out some $, but the laundering in BVI of $ is clearly messing with freedoms and peoples aroun the world. Simple fact is today, and the last 20 years, BVI gov’s have been a sinkhole of corruption and self dealing, while the average local and downisland resident ate crow. Demand decency and fairness from your own, here and now. do not suffer the foolishness of deflection, which elevated persons in BVI society wish to distract you with. demand respect and honesty from your government and its bloated payroll, or perish . . .

    • Diaspora says:

      Yes, a few traitorous, self-hating and delusional Africans were complicit in capturing fellow Africans to sell to slave traders so we should not try to rationalize the despicable action of slave traders and slave owners. Does not the purchaser who knowingly buys stolen goods at a discount from the thief just as guilty? What is the defence for brutalizing, dehumanizing, murdering, exploiting and raping slaves? None. The behaviour was inhumane, despicable, deplorable, evil, deceitful, treacherous…….etc. The treatment inflicted by slave traders and slave owners on Slaves is a million raised to the tenth power worst than “bad pay” scoundrels.

      The Slaves were worked and treated worst than Hebrew Slaves but the outcome for the descendants of Hebrew Slaves was much better than that of the descendants of African Slaves.

      Moreover, the descendants of the slave owners like to spout a number of canards, eg, 1)I was not a slave owner and was not around during slavery, 2)no one alive was a slave, 3)I didn’t benefit from Slavery and 4) I’m not responsible for what my ancestors did. Here is a news flash. The slave owners descendants benefited tremendously from slavery and continue to benefit. For example, they enjoy White privilege. Slaves and their labour created personal wealth for slave traders and slave owners and this wealth was transferred to their descendants through inheritance. Slave labour built the UK economy, creating housing, educational, employment, healthcare…….etc advantages and opportunities for the descendants of slave traders and slave owners. What a head start!

      At Emancipation, all the Slaves had was the rags on their broken and wary backs. Slaves and their descendants started the race about 50 metres behind the starting line and they have been trying to catch up ever since. After Emancipation more hurdles were placed in their paths. Other groups who have been abused have received reparation. It is way past time to give reparation to the descendants of African slaves.

  24. @islandboi says:

    You are speaking as though the lost tax revenue belonged personally to the people of the VI and not to the tax evaders. And look around you with eyes with open instead of wide shut. The majority of people that live here are not living some cushy, comfortable lifestyle. Unless you are, of course, speaking about yourself and your colleagues. And get your history right in terms of percentages when it comes to slave traders. And for the love of all that is holy, I hope that your reference to the African cousins was not your way of rationalizing slavery. I pity you because I feel your confusion.

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