Laura Trevelyan, a star BBC journalist for over 30 years, has resigned from her position to devote her life to groveling apologies for her family’s sordid past as slave owners. I swear this is not parody. Last month she went with her family to the Caribbean nation of Grenada to publicly apologize for the family owning some 1,000 slaves a couple of centuries ago.
Unlike most public scolds, she at least had the decency to put her money where her mouth is. According to reports, she is pulling £100,000 from her pending BBC pension to donate towards the cause of reparations. But, never fear, she’s not finished. She will be trotting the globe hectoring the innocent on their responsibility to pay up to make her conscience feel better.
Trevelyan, who said that the £100,000 donation would be drawn from a pending pension payout from the BBC, said she would be quitting the public broadcaster to become a full-time “roving advocate” on the campaign to secure financial reparations for the Caribbean from former colonial powers.
She also said she wanted to work with other families whose ancestors owned enslaved people in the Caribbean and who wanted to make amends.
I’ll go on record saying that I view the idea of reparations as a grift, whether here or in the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, the formerly enslaved population, excluding the Irish Catholics sold there by Oliver Cromwell, are now the political and economic elites. The living condition of the average citizen of Grenada or Jamaica is much more a function of the political, social, and economic choices made since attaining independence than any disadvantage that can be traced to slavery that ended in 1835. Closer to home, I think the claim that the United States was built on slave labor that pseudo-intellectual Nikole Hannah-Jones rode to stardom upon is easily proven a lie by looking at pre-Civil War economic data. This is the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper titled American Incomes 1774-1860, published in 2012 before we’d started our current period of national iconoclasm.
Then between 1790 and 1860 US income per capita grew even faster than previous scholars have estimated. We also find that the South was initially much richer than the North on the eve of Revolution, but then suffered a severe reversal of fortune, so that by 1840 its white population was already poorer than free Northerners.
This doesn’t sound like slavery generating wealth.
None of this is to say that slavery was not a great evil. It was. But everything has boundaries and limits.
In my view, any reparations owed for slavery were extinguished in blood by the time Brigadier General Stand Watie surrendered his First Indian Brigade to federal forces in Doaksville, Oklahoma, on June 23, 1865. (As an aside, this land is conquered, not stolen, and I’d no more acknowledge some distant tribal resident of my country as owning the land than I’d expect the residents of Dublin to get all maudlin over driving out the Danes.) If the Almighty limits himself to “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation,” I see no reason why I should tolerate some self-righteous Karen plaguing me beyond His statute of limitations.
So, I’m happy that Ms. Trevelyan has found her calling. I’ll acknowledge the nobility of her sinking some of her own fortune into the endeavor. I can’t think of anything I’d rather inflict on the British upper classes than one of their own hounding them for money to assuage her guilt. I can’t wait until Harry and Meghan get their hooks into her. But if she were serious about this project, she’d bother all the parties in the slave trade, like France, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and the West African countries whose chieftains rounded up the humans for sale to European slavers for rum and trade goods. But I’m not holding my breath.
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