Ways forward with the 'slavery legacy & reparation' debate

Following on from last night’s ‘apology for slavery?’ debate I met up with Ekow Eshun today in Bristol and discussed what was missing from the debate. Last night there were different views on where the injustices (and responsibility for them) lay. From the floor, Martin Upchurch (Respect Party) said that an apology means everything and it means nothing.

Toyin Agbetu pleaded for dialogue: “I want to conduct a conversation in which we can exchange views. An apology is to do with making it possible for me and you to live in the same space on equal terms. My children and your children too. We need to recreate a Britain which includes a wider perspective.”
In support of this another speaker said “An apology might well be political and evasive. But what it will do is tell all of us there is something for us to discuss & that is deeply important. We must use every instrument to open apologies wherever we are”. Reparation was discussed too, and education was seen as a key part of this reparation to build a world of greater equity/equality and less tokenism. Ekow Eshun said that “It is difficult & exhausting to explain that Britain, for all its strengths, is a racist country. That racism comes out of the self-confidence built up over centuries. The word sorry isn’t a very big word, but it is a very meaningful word.”
Today I gave Ekow a copy of “The Apologist”; he knows Jay Rayner and will talk further to him about his novel. Ekow agreed with me that missing from last night’s panel was the voice of a mediator; someone whose daily work is in the facilitating of difficult conversations and witnessing people repairing the harm between them, with or without an apology. In Ekow’s words, the experience of ‘Truth & Reconciliation’ would have greatly enhanced this discussion. Ekow and I touched on the dynamics of finding mediators who would engage the stakeholders. Neutrality and impartiality are two of the mediator’s values which play a crucial role in engaging stakeholders in discussions. Who are the stakeholders with power to do something? If they can be identified, how do we gain their confidence to discuss & address the harms for which acknowledgement (and redress?) is sought? [If it is about Englands Port Cities, this link has much history]
As the discussions develop on ‘what fairness looks like’ in a world with a legacy of slavery and racism, I will be working to bring mediation values, skills and opportunities to those who have frustration? regrets? and can be engaged in communication. In debates, more mediator panelists please.


At 2:18 pm, Anonymous Lindy said...

It was very interesting to read the summary of the debate regarding Apology and I agree with Paul Crosland's comments. People get stuck if they think of an apology as the final step or outcome. An apology is so often only the beginning of a meaningful dialogue that can really address the hurt and fear on both sides.


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