Get Informed

Explore some common questions and popular misconceptions about reparations.

1. What are reparations?

Reparations describe how an individual, group or society attempts to remedy a wrongdoing or crime. Reparations are not just financial compensation and they can also include – but are not limited to – formal apologies, return of colonised land and artefacts, restitution of civil rights and processes of memorialisation.

2. Who is responsible for reparations?

Reparations, in this instance, are expected to come from countries and institutions that benefitted from genocide, chattel slavery and settler colonialism in Caribbean countries.

3. Who decides?

The reparations process is decided by those who suffer(ed) from the harm and damage caused by chattel slavery, colonialism, and genocide. This also includes descendants suffering ongoing violations inflicted from the legacy of these crimes. Societies determine the steps to be taken through community-led dialogue, discussion and collaboration.

4. In terms of financial reparations, how much should be paid?

The transatlantic trafficking of enslaved Africans and its legacies of colonisation and genocide are incalculable atrocities and irreparable crimes. We believe, however, a good place to start in reckoning with the negative impact caused is analysing the socioeconomic damage inflicted on each country and the ways this damage continues to hinder prosperity.

5. Why won’t former colonial powers apologise?

Former colonial powers are reluctant to apologise formally for their role in the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved Africans as many believe this will incur culpability and may pave the way for an obligation to pay financial reparations. Instead, they sometimes offer expressions of “regret” or “deep sorrow,” which doesn’t go far enough to redress the harms caused.

6. Are there other examples of reparations?

While there are global examples of reparations and processes of reparatory justice, it is important to point out that processes are highly context-specific and there is no “one-size-fits-all.” We can, however, learn a lot from these examples and you can read more in our Dive Deeper section. 

Common arguments against reparations

1. It's unfair to make all citizens bear burden of reparations

Although not all citizens of the former colonial countries are direct descendants of enslavers or beneficiaries of chattel slavery, this legacy still benefitted these economies, institutions and countries as a whole. So even those who benefitted indirectly have a responsibility to engage with this issue.

2. Too much time has passed

Less time has passed since the abolition of chattel slavery than the length of the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved Africans. Additionally, the impact of chattel slavery is still felt today as intergenerational trauma, economic disparities, health crises and systemic inequalities are a daily reality in the Caribbean. Reparations are a matter of urgency.

3. Economic reparations won’t work in the Caribbean because these countries are still debt-stricken, inept or corrupt.

This line of argument is highly simplistic and ignores colonial origins. Colonialism left Caribbean countries over-exploited and significantly depleted, meaning these newly independent countries needed to borrow heavily to provide basic services such as housing, health and education. What’s more, some former colonies were forced to pay European colonisers leading to more debt and dependency.

Get Involved

The Repair Campaign amplifies the call for former colonial powers to acknowledge their role in the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved Africans.

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