Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Protests and celebrations on slavery

You see, this is one area where I am definitely confused.
The issue of having church services to celebrate things.

Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery by the British Parliament of the time after a very viciferous campaign led by Hull-born Member of Parliament William Wilberforce and whilst slavery didn't stop overnight the seeds were sown 200 years ago.

So yesterday HM The Queen and HM Government members all trooped along to Westminster Abbey to have a service, fittingly enough in the place where a statue of Wilberforce stands.

But why ?

They weren't actually celebrating the Abolition Bill, more having a service of regret at slavery having happened in the first place and it provoked an interruption by a lone protestor Toyin Agbetu who described himself as a human rights campaigner and insisted that African Christians should not have attended the soiree in the Abbey, conveniently ignoring the fact that Africa is one of the country's where slavery still exists - which should surely be the focus of his energy's ?

Yesterday on our local radio station the mid-day presenter had a "vote-o" moment with the question "Should Lord Harewood apologise for slavery ?". Lord Harewood being the Queens cousin who lives on a palatial estate just north of Leeds and who's family fortune was created in the 1700's by the ownership of several West Indies plantations and a part share in a slave ship.

BBC Radio Leeds obviously thought he should do and as the actual Lord Harewood isn't of the best of health these days they pleaded on air for his son David Lacelles (the family name) to call them and give his opinion with the obvious implication that they wanted a grovelling apology from him.

He didn't ring but he sent an email telling the presenter that the Harewood estate did not belong to the family now as it is an educational trust - the family are not allowed in law to draw any income from the estate nor can they benefit at any time in future from the sale of its assets, so on the charge of benefitting from slavery the current generation, and his fathers generation have been not guilty for around 50 years now, and as he pointed out, the trust sponsor several inner city education projects which benefit people of all ethnic backgrounds - he felt that his family had nothing to apologise for.

And the Radio Leeds audience agreed with him, reluctantly after a two hour harrangueing of the Lacelles family the BBC had to admit that 95% of the votes cast had been in favour of the family and of the opinion that slavery in the 1700's has as much to do with our generation as the Romans enslaving the Anglo Saxons when they invaded our country a thousand years earlier - which sort of pissed off the BBC a little, on their 2pm news bulletin they mentioned that Lord Harewood "had been under fire this lunchtime over his family's slavery background" despite the fact that he hadn't, still, nothing like a good story eh ?

And thats the problem with involving yourself with bleeding heart liberal issues for which there is no solution except to shake your head and agree that our ancestors were wrong in their attitudes even though by the standards of the time they would not have appreciated their wrong doing.


John_D said...

I have large problems with a church service making the news per se. That the Church of England were far more than merely complicit in the slave trade makes this one slightly more newsworthy, but not for the reasons that it actually made the news. File under R for rank hypocrisy.

Gary said...

Including the plantation in Barbados that was owned by the Anglican church where 4 out of 10 slaves died after four years of grafting for the monks and bishop ?

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