Thursday, February 22, 2018

The scars of slavery still with us


I would like to respond to Sahadeo Ragoonanan’s letter in Monday’s Express, headlined “Please stop blaming slavery”.

There are some people who try to trivialise the impact of slavery on the descendants of the African diaspora in the New World. Some do so, I suspect, in order to play devil’s advocate whether they know the truth or not; while others, I suspect, have no pertinent knowledge and jump on an unsteady bandwagon in their quest to further their own ignorance and selfish agenda.

Proponents of reparations, psychologists and historians have documented the tragedy created by the slave trade and slavery itself on the plantations in the diaspora. There are no such tragedies documented on the Africans of the continent. As a matter of fact, those societies closely resemble farming communities in India. There, village life is wholesome, family-oriented and rich in cultural traditions.

In case Mr Ragoonanan is lost, I must explain the conflict we see on the news arises as a result of arbitrary boundaries set by the colonial powers which subsequently left unconnected tribes in the same new geographical locations. This is also a source of conflict in places such as Bosnia, etc.

In Africa itself, Zimbabwe and South Africa have a high incidence of diaspora-like pathology because their people experienced apartheid—a form of slavery. There is a word for the process—trauma. In contemporary society, post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition which causes people exposed to trauma to behave and think in a particular manner which ruins their lives if left untreated.

Three to four hundred years of slavery trauma impacts upon a people and yes, Mr Ragoonanan, it is hereditary. Your own views on the subject prove it. Your perception of these people continues because of their overt behaviour, which really is associated to their ethnic background as a result of their trauma across generations.

Ainsworth and Bowlby, fathers of the Attachment Theory, have found there is a generational component to trauma and I add the quotation of one of the theorists for the benefit of Mr Ragoonanan: “We are now beginning to empirically explore the psychological, internal or representational aspects of attachment, including the intergenerational transmission of attachment patterns that had been at the centre of Bowlby’s interests since his beginnings in psychiatry but that are most clearly elaborated in Volumes 2 and 3 of the attachment trilogy.” (See Bretherton, 1987, 1990, 1991).

The social situation we are seeing in the diaspora is as a direct result of this trauma and reparations is not cash. It has to be certain opportunities for these people to have interventions of education, health, wealth and well-being to pursue their best potential.

The western world is now reaping the rewards of the monster it grew hundreds of years ago. It is no wonder the state of Israel has the philosophy it has now, and no one dares to tell it about it and, as a matter of fact, it is a crime in some places to deny the holocaust. Yes, Mr Ragoonanan, it does seem that slavery is hereditary.

Frederick Phillips

Malabar