The news this week that the University of Glasgow in Scotland had made a large reparations grant (200 million pounds) to the University of the West Indies came as a pleasant surprise to this newspaper. We had not expected the Europeans ever to acknowledge their enslavement/rape of Africans except in scant and infrequent rhetoric. Amandala congratulates The UWI and its Vice-Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles.
Meanwhile, it was evident this week that a team of Belizean journalists flown to The Hague in the Netherlands (Holland) by the United States Embassy in Belize to tour the International Court of Justice, were awed by the majesty and grandeur of the buildings and infrastructure they saw. When it comes to slavery and colonialism, the predator Dutch have always flown under the radar. Compared to the British, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, for example,the Dutch have practically gotten a free pass. Why this is so, it is hard to say, but the Dutch arguably inflicted as much damage on people of color in Asia, Africa and the Americas as any of the four European examples we mentioned in the previous sentence. The Dutch were pirates, enslavers, and colonizers.
Europe overall enriched itself by forcing the people of Asia, Africa and the Americas to work for them as slaves and serfs. The Europeans accomplished this through force of arms. Asia, Africa and the Americas did not invade Europe. Europe invaded Asia, Africa and the Americas. This process of invasion and conquest basically began in the fifteenth century A.D. It was a straightforward enough process. The Europeans came in their ships, they attacked, they conquered, and they ruled. They transferred the wealth of Asia, Africa and the Americas back to their European homes. This is how the impressive architecture and infrastructure at which our Belizean journalists are marveling, was built. The transfer of wealth was a brutal process. That is how Europe enriched itself.
The Europeans were not satisfied with being successful invaders, conquerors, and rulers. They also wanted to be missionaries, and to save our ancestors’ “pagan” souls. The argument the Europeans used, that their invasion/conquest was really a humanitarian process because it was a case of their wishing to Christianize the Asian, African and American savages in those distant continents, convinced many of the Europeans who had remained at home in Europe that “their boys” out there on the high seas and beyond were doing good things, rescuing savages from ignorance, cannibalism, devil worship, and so on. Thus, racist brutality was dressed in the garments of religious healing.
The first school in the settlement of Belize was opened a little more than two hundred years ago by the Anglican Church. The unique aspect of the Anglican Church is that the head of the Church is the king or queen of England; thus, in 2018 Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Anglican Church. There is really no difference, then, between the English nation-state and the English church. This is how it has been since Henry VIII declared himself head of the Anglican Church in 1534.
And it was because their Puritan ancestors had been persecuted by the unique English combination of church and state, that the Founding Fathers of the United States of America made it their specific constitutional business, when they declared their independence in 1776, to separate the state from the church, absolutely.
The problem with having the church and the state as one in a colonial situation such as Belize’s when it was British Honduras, is that the education system is run by the church, whose primary concern is religious training. When anti-colonial ferment began amongst the natives in Belize after World War II, and Belize achieved self-government in 1964 and political independence in 1981, the Belizean state never separated the education of Belizean children from the focus on religious training.
Belizean children who are processed by our church-state educational system at some point in their lives are confronted by the reality that the European peoples are very rich, and we Belizeans are quite poor. The bloody process through which Europe became so wealthy is not analyzed and presented to our children in their school curricula, so that the conclusion of the average Belizean child has to be that the Europeans were and are inherently superior to us Belizeans, because that is the only explanation for the fact that they are on top and we are at the bottom. (Come to think of it, some religions even refer to a certain group of European-descent people as “chosen by God.”)
Moving forward, such an explanation for white supremacy has to be rejected if Belize is to rise to national dignity. The demand for financial reparations from the Europeans is derived from the understanding in former slave societies that our ancestors worked in order that the Europeans might be enriched. All wealth was transferred from places like Belize and the British West Indies back to England and Scotland. The Dutch had their own Dutch West Indies. Again, when there was a British Guiana, there was also a French Guiana, and a Dutch Guiana, on the northern side of South America.
Immensely enriched for centuries by the slave and cheap labor of subject Asia, Africa and the Americas, Europe built the finest schools and universities money could buy. They created educational systems within which their children have been able to reach the highest levels of learning. As time went along, and the Europeans became, more and more wealthy and more and more educated it became nigh impossible for people like us Belizeans not to believe that the Europeans possessed some kind of innate intellectual superiority, that there was some kind of congenital brain discrepancy here: they were smart and we were not. Cold talk,
It seems to us that the people of the Asian continent have freed themselves of any kind of inferiority complex where their intellectual prowess is concerned. The Chinese, the Indians, the Pakistanis, the Koreans, and other Asian nationalities have shattered the chains of mental slavery. On the African continent, Africans never accepted any kind of inferior intellectual status. But in Belize, the situation is that most of us see no alternative to our traditional path of seeking to follow and copy the Europeans. Happily, such a thinking is not embraced by our Mayan and Garifuna populations.
Power to the people.