By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
October 15, 2018
“Gold? Yellow, glittering, precious gold? No, gods, I am no idle votarist!…Thus much of this will make black white, foul fair, wrong right, base noble, old young, coward valiant.”
—William Shakespeare,”Timon of Athens”
Two weeks ago, I made a case for “reparative justice.” Drawing on “Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow,” a report that was coauthored by Dr. Stephen Mullen, a well-respected scholar, I challenged the national community to think about this concept. I did not chastise anyone. I simply stated facts as I saw them.
Mullen’s report was important because it drew on my work, The Slave Master of Trinidad, to demonstrate how Burnley’s profits and the capital he bequeathed to his son, William Frederick, subsidized the development of the University of Glasgow (UG). UG launched a program for reparative justice because of Mullen’s report. (See “Glasgow University to make amends over slavery profits,” London Guardian, September 11, 2018).
Since my great-grandfather, my grandfather, my uncles, my brother, and I (to a small extent) worked on Burnley estates, I sought to capture how it feels to see such a large enterprise pass from one owner to another (from Home Construction Limited, to Colonial Life and now to Dominic Hadeed) who has little knowledge of this piece of geography, its history, or the social and cultural life of the people who worked on these lands.
My article, “Reparative Justice,” consisted of 18 paragraphs, three of which were devoted to Dominic Hadeed and Blue Waters. It noted that 285 acres of the land on which my people toiled are now leased to Dominic Hadeed, that his father came from Syria in the 1960s, founded the Fabric Land chain and Blue Waters in 1996. I ended as follows: “Blue Waters uses the site on which the old factory was located to produce their bottled waters and planted the rest of the land in over two dozen types of long and medium crops.”
Blinded by his money and his power, J. Hadeed, presumably a relative of Dominic, sought to malign me: “It seems to be a pattern now for Prof. Cudjoe to spew his venom at the Syrian/Lebanese community…on a regular basis” (“Unfair Attack on Syrian Lebanese,” Express, October 6).
Hadeed does not tell the reader how I spewed venom on the Syrian/Lebanese community.
He does not deny the facts I presented, the history of the land, or the nature of reparative justice. He praises the “indefatigable workers” of his community and the tremendous work they do for our society. I drew no conclusions nor criticized the work Hadeed’s community does to enhance the well-being of Trinbagonians and themselves.
Satisfied with his ill-founded refutation, he delivers his coup de grace: “The fact you [Professor Cudjoe] and others like you keep focusing on the so-called one percent cannot be interpreted any other way than through racist spectacles.”
Over the past 18 years I have written over 500 articles for different outlets on different subjects (“Selwyn R. Cudjoe’s Archives,” Trinicenter.com). Fewer than 10 of them dealt with or mentioned “the so-called one percent.” The “racist spectacles” Hadeed presumes to see reside in his mind and his careless reading, not in my written work.
After his infantile pronouncement Hadeed offers his epiphany: “Prof. Cudjoe, please awake from your slavery slump; otherwise you would be blaming slavery for everything for the next 1,000 years!”
How does one respond to this absurdity?
The Center for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave ownership was established at the University of London (UCL) in 2009 to trace “the impact of slave ownership on the formation of modern Britain” and the structure and significance of British Caribbean slave ownership 1763-1833. It was/is funded by the British Government and Hutchins Center at Harvard University.
In 2013 I received a professorial scholarship to do research at UC’s Institute of the Americas where I worked with Dr. Nick Draper, author of The Price of Emancipation and the current director of the Slave Legacies Program. At UCL I researched my recently completed The Slave Master of Trinidad. Scholars such as Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of UWI, has devoted a considerable amount of his scholarly life examining reparation as his book Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide demonstrates.
Prof. Beckles welcomed Mullen’s report. He said: “I celebrate colleagues in Glasgow for taking these first steps and keenly anticipate working through next steps” (“Glasgow University to Make Amends”).
Immigration strengthens and gives vitality to the economic, social, and cultural fabric of any country. Dominic’s father and his family worked hard to make a better life in this country. Trinidad and Tobago is a stronger and a more vibrant society because of the presence of the Syrian/Lebanese community. Their hard work does not absolve them from criticism.
The acquisition of money is a good thing. However, it should not blind one to the pain and suffering other groups in the society have undergone. Neither should it be used to malign others with impunity.
Methinks the gentleman protests too much. I prefer to be in the “slavery slump” with Professors Beckles, Draper, Mullen, Sir Anton Macatelli, UC’s vice-chancellor, and men and women of that ilk. This is not a racist sentiment. Call me a votary of scholarship and learning.