Looking Backward to Look Forward
One of my pet peeves is how often people with privilege say things like: “well that happened in the past it has nothing to do with me ” or “we need to stop looking at the past and move forward” or even, “how long can I be blamed for something my great great great great great grandfather did? ”
The thing is when we are talking about historical events such as colonisation or slavery they have far reaching social consequences that are still felt today. Just because you personally did not steal land from an indigenous person or profit off the backbreaking labour done by a slave does not mean you did not and are still not benefiting from the system that allowed these things to happen. Claiming that we can just move forward from these deeply traumatic parts of our history without actually addressing the wrongs that went on is just ludicrous.
Do people really think that entire communities who had their lands and livelihoods taken away and were treated as second class citizens suffer no ill affects? That these ill effects do not reverberate for generations?
I think of every small injustice I have suffered and how these small acts have shaped me irrevocably and cannot help but think of the destruction injustice on a large scale causes. You cannot pretend that evil has not happened. You cannot act as though those who are rightfully choked with rage because of everything that happened to their mothers and grandmothers are in the wrong and should ‘just let it go’ and stop living in the past. You cannot claim that your wealth has nothing to do with their poverty. It doesn’t work like that.
There is perhaps not enough money in the world that could ever redress the wrongs of slavery, colonisation, genocide, apartheid and the myriad other deeply wrong events, policies and projects that have occurred. That shouldn’t matter. What there should be is a surfeit of compassion and empathy for peoples and communities who have suffered like this and yet there is not. There is anger, discrimination and hate, which perpetuate further victimisation. Life isn’t a zero sum gain and reparations and admitting wrong does not take away from what you have.
How can society ever move forward if we do not openly and honestly address the foundation of what it is built on?