Sometimes things don't go in the way you'd like them to. Don Lemon learned that lesson on Monday evening with host British Royal commentator, Hilary Fordwich.
Lemon, who has recently been sacked from his show on the primetime channel and will host the breakfast show for CNN, decided to change the discussion to reparations. He said that those who suffered under colonialism and slavery “want to be paid back.” Fordwich then took a step that few people will take on the subject.
Fordwich: What they have to ensure is that they always have to go back to the start in the chain. What was the location of the start in the chain of supply? It took place in Africa and, in the world, slavery was prevalent. What was the first country in the world to abolish slavery? The first country that was able to eliminate it, and it was initiated with William Wilberforce, was the British. It was in Great Britain they abolished slavery. Over 2,000 naval soldiers drowned on the high seas in the fight to end the practice of slavery.
Why? Because the African rulers were securing their own people and were keeping them in cages at the beach. I believe that you're right. If reparations are required to be paid, we'll need to return to the beginning of the supply chain to determine who was responsible for rounding up their own population and putting them in handcuffed cages. That's the place to start. Perhaps, but I'm not sure, the descendants of the families that perished on the high seas, trying to end the slave trade, these families are also entitled to something as a part of the reparations.
Lemon immediately ended the show after Fordwich's reply. It was possible that it was due to him being out of time or CNN did not want her opinion to be broadcast I'm not sure. I'm guessing it was the latter since Lemon has been known to interrupt with a final word whenever the guests disagree with him. Maybe Fordwich simply left him without a response?
It's a fascinating discussion. Although you cannot disentangle British their involvement with the slave trade by identifying them as the sole responsible party issue of claims for reparations being arbitrary comes up. Fordwich is right in that the British sacrificed blood and treasure in order to end the trade in slaves before any other nation did, and even fought against African kingdoms who wanted to continue the trade.
It's not a comfortable topic to discuss. However, it's rarely discussed outside of a handful of interactions per year, which often result in negative reactions. Fordwich could get this same kind of treatment, however I'm not convinced she should. Evidently, she has an immense amount to be proud of with her country and its history, but it's also complicated. This is especially applicable to the premodern period. There were hardly ever “good guys” and “bad guys” in the 15th-18th century. In the majority of cases, every organized group of people, be it a kingdom, nation, or tribe, was guilty of what we now consider to be the most horrific crimes in our modern eyes.
I think you could look at the past, and not ignore its horrors, but conclude the idea of reparations being a concept is not a good idea from a moral and practical viewpoint. It will arbitrarily force those who did not have a part in slavery to compensate those who were never enslaved.
However, this doesn't mean that the British weren't guilty for the slavery trade. However, it does indicate that they were just one aspect of the problem, and that those who demand reparations from certain people within Britain appear more impulsive than rational. It's particularly true when you consider that slavery was ended around two centuries back through the British prior to any other kingdom or nation in the world, not just the entire continent of Africa and the Middle East, doing so.