Barbados is on the verge of completing its transition to a Republican system of government. On November 30, the 55th anniversary of her independence from Great Britain, the British Queen will no longer be the Head of State of Barbados. The word “royal” will be deleted from the names of institutions and they will no longer bear the insignia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The tiny Caribbean island will have its first elected president, Dame Sandra Mason, who represents the Barbadian struggle for self-determination and whose tenure will not last a lifetime.
For many around the world, the estrangement from the British monarchy is a mature and gradual separation from the island’s former colonial ruler. For Barbados’ population of just under 300,000, this is an extremely important period ending more than 400 years of British rule, which included centuries of the most inhumane form of the slave trade. slaves.
Barbados was “the British colonial site of the first ‘black slave society’,” notes Hilary Beckles, Barbadian historian and chair of the Caribbean Community Reparations Commission (CARICOM). “The most systemically violent, brutal and racially inhuman society of modernity.”
Many of my fellow young Barbadians see November 30 as the start of a new national journey. In fact, many of us are not satisfied with the mere symbolic sign of having a Barbadian head of state. Instead, we see the need to move from a centuries-old order that has invested tremendous power in a concept of hereditary sovereignty that has never been consistent with our identity. As Sovereign, the British Monarch owns all land, buildings, equipment, Crown corporations, copyright in government publications, and employs all government personnel.
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Three centuries of atrocities
Most Barbadians between the ages of 18 and 35 know the key details of the transatlantic slave trade. Our ancestors worked hard after being kidnapped from their West African homes, stripped of their dignity and forced to work in grueling cane plantations as the property of the British bourgeoisie.
This barbaric and brutal form of human trafficking, murder, torture and rape has made rich men the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. They amassed huge fortunes, which laid the foundation for multigenerational wealth. Young Barbadians now know that over time these ill-gotten fortunes were considered so glorious by slavers that the island was commonly referred to as “Little England” and considered an almost perfect model for trade.
It was only the beginning of a period of unspoken atrocities, which lasted more than 300 years. It continued well beyond the 1807 abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the formal abolition of slavery by colonial assemblies in the Caribbean in 1838.