The British Emancipation Bill came into effect on August 1, 1834. This effectively gave ‘freedom’ to slaves throughout the British empire. However, the slaves were not granted freedom immediately. They had to be apprenticed to their former masters for a minimum of four (4) years. The joy which they felt upon receiving the news of their freedom was therefore short-lived.
Trinidad & Tobago on August 1, 1985 became the first country in the world to declare Emancipation Day an official holiday. Emancipation Day is now observed in several Caribbean islands; the United States; Canada and South Africa. It is generally regarded as a time of celebration. A day when the descendants of slaves celebrate the end of their brutal enslavement and dehumanization for over four hundred (400) years.
The following is an excerpt from a website which describes what Emancipation Day is all about:
“The day is celebrated by remembering all those people who contributed much in having this great act of kindness bestowed.
Every year a joyful street parade is organized. There is dancing to the sound of African drums and chants, with participants dressed in traditional African garb parading through the streets.” My Trini Grocery
Sadly, that is such an apt description of what takes place on Emancipation Day. The question is: WHY? Do the Jews celebrate the end of the Holocaust? What mental state must you be in to celebrate the end of your oppression, especially when that liberty does not come as a result of your direct effort militarily or otherwise?
Comparing The African Holocaust with The Jewish Holocaust
Though the holocaust means a sacrifice by fire, and is not a truly accurate description of either the Jewish or African experiences. I shall use the term to help bring clarity to the comparisons between the two events.
- The Jewish holocaust lasted 12 years. The African holocaust lasted over 400 years.
- It is claimed that over six (6) million Jews were killed by Hitler. On the other hand, the oppression of Africans resulted in anywhere from sixty (60) million, to, as much as, one hundred and fifty (150) million people being annihilated. That’s ten (10) to twenty-five (25) times more people.
- In the African slave trade millions of people were born and died as slaves, never knowing what it was to be free men/women.
- Though the Jews received reparations both on a national and personal level. African’s requests for the same are dismissed as irrational rantings. In fact, Haiti was ordered to pay (the equivalent of twenty-one billions dollars today) reparations to France after they defeated the most powerful army in the world, at that time, and gained their liberty.
The Destruction Of The African Psyche
How do the Jews mark their holocaust? They hold a commemoration each year to remember those who suffered the atrocities. They describe their experience as: “mass murder, the human suffering, the annihilation of spiritual, intellectual, and creative forces, which are without parallel in the history of mankind.
Though I am in agreement that the Jewish holocaust was an extremely horrific event. It, in both scale and duration, pales in comparison to the African genocide. An event of such colossal size is enough to erase from the mental faculty all knowledge of self. One becomes an empty shell, easily programmed to accept slavery as your predetermined lot. In much the same way that the Dalits in India are conditioned from birth to accept their roles as untouchables.
So even though the physical shackles may have been removed, the mental chains of inferiority remain. Is it any wonder that Africans can celebrate their ’emancipation’ as though they have been given some great gift.