Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles has said the United States now has a third opportunity to fulfill the promise of democracy. He was speaking in a recent interview with BBC Radio 4 on “The World at One” on Thursday, June 11. When asked how much of a pivotal moment it was now in the United States he replied that it was a very significant moment in terms of the evolution of American democracy.
Professor Beckles described the first opportunity to fulfill the promise of democracy in America and said “having fought the war of independence they tried to encourage the enslaved African people that if they participated in this war of liberation they would benefit from democracy with civil rights and equal rights, and they betrayed the black people.”
According to Prof. Beckles, America had an opportunity to push through with the promise of democracy for black people after the American Revolution, but did not.
“And then for the next hundred years, slavery, and freedom, and democracy could not co-exist in the same place. This took them back to the battlefield and back to the battlefield they went in the civil war to litigate the matter, one of the bloodiest wars in history. And of course, they did abolish slavery finally. But, having abolished slavery they replaced it with Jim Crow, what we call apartheid, and another hundred years of apartheid followed – the second betrayal of the black people” he continued.
He said what was currently unfolding was another opportunity and black people of America have risen up and they have support both around the world and domestically. “This is the third opportunity to fulfill this promise of a democracy in which the black people can participate equally. So, it’s a historical moment that we are witnessing. It’s the third moment of the democratic uprising for equality in American society. We have to observe very carefully whether there will be a third betrayal of the black people” stated the CARICOM Reparations Commission Chairman.
Sir Hilary said further that this was the first occasion since the civil war where a massive mobilization within the country and beyond has captured the imagination of traditional and conservative reactionary interests. “All the people of America have now come to realize that they have reached another fork in the road. It is impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. The genie cannot go back into the bottle” he said.
Regarding the removal of statues and monuments that have been occurring, the Vice Chancellor said it was “quintessentially the most important symbolic gesture”, noting that the discourse around the monuments had failed to capture the psychological power of political oppression. “The black community has had to endure seeing the people celebrated publicly who murdered them, who committed mass crimes against them, who committed genocidal acts against them.”
He said until white people realized what that does to the people who have been the victims of these crimes, there would not be much progress. Additionally, he said he was very pleased to know that in Barbados, which is the land of his birth, there was now a mass uprising to remove the statue of Lord Horatio Nelson from the center of the city.
“If he was indeed, as we know he is, the architect that used his naval skills to protect these crimes, then of course yes I believe he should not be celebrated in this way and he should also be taken down from Trafalgar Square” Sir Hilary concluded.