On colonialism, slavery, racism and repentance:
Four suggestions to French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira
Dear Sir or Madam,Please find herewith an article that I wrote as an exercise within the framework of an English course for senior citizens.(I am a French retired biologist).
Although it relates to French politics,I presume that it might interest a British web site dealing with national identity and patriotism.
By J.M. Blanc-A recent paper by Joseph Bamat in France 24 International news (http://www.france24.com/en/20130512-france-minister-taubira-land-reform-slavery-caribbean-reparations-hollande) reports that Justice Minister Christiane Taubira wants to redistribute land to favour the descendants of African slaves in Caribbean overseas territories, a project which was welcomed by a lobby called “Representative Council of Black Associations” (in French: CRAN, for “Conseil Représentatif des Associations Noires”). These pieces of news deserve a few remarks and suggestions.
First let me make clear my conviction that colonialism was a huge political mistake: European nations should never have set foot in overseas countries, whether in Africa or anywhere else.
Our missionaries, doctors and engineers pretended to bring development, humanism and democracy, but this proved to be useless to peoples that were not culturally ready for it.
This was pretentiousness and disrespect for the right of nations to self-determination, and above all, according to our modern standards, slavery was a crime.
We paid a lot for that, but apparently, Minister Christiane Taubira wants us to pay even more.
One should remember, though, that colonialism has been a widespread custom since ancient times.
For instance, Caribbean islands that Mrs Taubira is interested in were first occupied by successive migrations of South-American Indians; the last ones were the Arawaks (4th c.).
This rather peaceful people was exterminated by the invasion of Caribbean warriors (9th c.), which themselves were crushed by French colonists (17th c.).
Nowadays, the last Caribbean descendants have no apparent guilt complex about the fate Arawaks suffered, and they just complain about the land grabbed by the French.
Anyway, how surprising, Mrs Taubira does not seem to care for Indians, but only for Africans…
Colonialism, therefore, has been so common and widespread in History that ruling reparations for it in every country (unless considering that the guilt should fall on France only) is likely to be a rather complicated task.
But at least, on the basis of our Justice Minister’s rationale, I may hope for recognition of an ancient injustice suffered by my country.
Indeed, my Gallic ancestors were defeated and colonized by the Romans in 52 BC, and therefore France would have good reason to lodge a complaint against Italy.
Of course, I realise that this country, due to a poor economical condition, has a limited solvency, but I would be satisfied with public excuses.
Calling on the Government to take the necessary steps in that purpose is thus my first suggestion to Christiane Taubira – it will certainly liven things up in future European conferences.
Slavery in our Antillean and Guyanese territories (where Mrs Taubira’s ancestors were from) was a juicy business from the 17th to the 19th century: 11 million poor guys were transferred from the African coast – that’s not a trifle.
But these poor guys, who of course were bought from African dealers, were only a minor part of a huge slave trade that operated at the same time all over Africa.
The inner-African trade (between African kingdoms) involved about 14 million people, while the Muslim-Arabian trade involved about 17 million.
Strangely enough, the law authored by Mrs Taubira, which recognises slavery as a crime against humanity, deals with the sole transatlantic trade (along with the Indian Ocean trade), ignoring the major part of African slavery – maybe Mrs Taubira wasn’t told about it...
Yet, special consideration is to be given to the Muslim-Arabian trade, a perfectly legal practice according to the Koran, which lasted from the 8th to the 20th century.
Raids were committed in Sub-Saharan Africa and slaves were traded in Algiers, Khartoum, Medina or Zanzibar (among others), for the use of Arabian customers, particularly in the Emirates.
Also, piracy in the Mediterranean Sea and raids in the Southern European coasts allowed the capture of various kinds of Christian slaves, including white young women who were much appreciated in Arabian harems.
I think therefore – and this is my second suggestion – that Christiane Taubira should complete her work for slavery remembrance and justice by pointing out the Muslim-Arabian responsibility in that field and demanding financial reparation from the Persian Gulf countries – which, unlike Italy, live comfortably.
No doubt our new friends in Qatar will help.
The fact remains that, in our Antillean and Guyanese territories, black people are deeply aware that slavery is now considered as a crime and that France has to pay for it – even though France was among the first countries that abolished slavery.
Accounting for this resentment, one may wonder why these people, who suffered so much from French crimes and still complain so much about it, don’t leave and go back to their original countries in Africa.
One may even more wonder why so many desperate migrants from Haiti and Surinam try to enter Guadeloupe and Guyana respectively: Weren’t they told that France is a terribly racist and xenophobic nation?
With that in mind, it becomes obvious that the mere project of redistributing some acres of land to a few descendants of slaves is totally inadequate: only total freedom may be decent reparation.
My third suggestion to Christiane Taubira is therefore to urge the French government to give full and permanent independence to these territories.
Of course, their people will have to adapt to the same standard of living as in Haiti, Cuba or Surinam, but self-determination has a price…
As for metropolitan citizens, they will be very interested to know that they pay 16 billion Euros (including 7 billion Euros special subsidies) per year – thank you, happy taxpayer! – for the French overseas territories, while the government reduces pensions and public utilities to save a few billions…
Getting rid of all these territories would therefore be worthwhile – and wouldn’t the Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN) be enthusiastic for such a project?
Lastly, the CRAN is, by itself, worth a final remark. Believe it or not, the existence of such a thing as a “Black Association” is not racist at all.
If it was, our valiant anti-racist lobbies such as the League for Human Rights (LDH), the Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) or “SOS Racisme”, would certainly fight against it – so quick they are to sue any journalist, writer or associative leader who dares to express the slightest criticism against Islam or uncontrolled immigration. Not only is the CRAN not racist, but also Joseph Bamat, in his France 24 paper, considers it a ”leading racism watchdog group” – quite an honour for a “Negroes only” community.
The good thing about it, however, is that “Whites only” associations should not be considered as racist either – and there is a need for those.
Indeed, in many urban and suburban areas, the Arabian and African immigrant population is such that white Europeans either move away (“white flight”) or have to face an unfavourable political and social order: On the street, they may be called “chalk face”, “white bastard”, “son of a bitch” or “dirty whore”, not mentioning the risk of being physically attacked.
Unfortunately, the above-mentioned, so-called anti-racist, associations are so occupied suing politically incorrect people that they don’t have the time to care for cases of insults and grievous bodily harm (as long as the victim is not more or less swarthy, of course).
That is what White Associations might be for, and this leads me to propose my fourth suggestion to Justice Minister Christiane Taubira: to promote such associations and provide them with a national framework that could be named “Representative Council of White Associations” (in French: CRAB, for “Conseil Représentatif des Associations Blanches”), and would be of course subsidized as an enterprise of benefit to the public…
No doubt the CRAN and other anti-racist lobbies will give good advice. A last word: As humorous as it may look, the present paper is rather pessimistic:
The risk does exist that native French citizens, if taken for idiots by their leaders for too long, especially on the grounds of Justice, might be tempted to take the law into their own hands.
And this wouldn’t be humour at all.