Before I start I want to declare an interest, my dad was born in Jamaica which I guess means that if you took some of my DNA you might be able to trace my ancestry back to a person who was owned by another person. Even now I find it really difficult to come to terms with the idea that someone who I am directly descended from was a slave. My Grandpa even told me that he grew up right next to the actual sugar plantation where our family were once listed as part of the inventory.
This week we saw the PM make an official visit to Jamaica and announced that the UK would be spending £25million on a new prison so he can more easily lock Jamaican deportees up (charming that this was his big priority). Now after what I have said about my family's slave heritage you'd imagine that when I heard that Portia Simpson-Miller the Jamaican PM had called for the UK to pay reparations to the Island as an apology for slavery that I would probably be supportive of the idea, well you would be wrong.
There are two reasons why I don't think that money should be paid to Jamaica the first is complex and probably for another blog post but I find it extremely hard to trust the politicians of a country where parties openly fund drug barons in exchange for them getting the vote out, to correctly redistribute the money into much needed infrastructure and public service projects.
The second reason though is simpler, it won't actually do anything for Jamaicans.
I believe that the answer here has to be about education.
There are no people alive who remember the horrors of slavery. There are no families who even have the stories of a family member who was around. My slave heritage is now just a small but incredibly horrible part of human history, but we should never ever be allowed to forget it.
I never learned anything at school about slavery other than about a very nice story about a wonderful British gentleman called William Wilberforce and the Royal Navy patrolling the Gold Coast of Africa to scare off slavers and thus protecting the world from the horrors of slavery. Sadly, as nice as that makes the British looks to a young lad in his early teens, the reality is clearly that Britain was no angel.
We need our children to be taught about the realities of history, that Britain did enslave people. That those people's descendants are now here in the UK and attending our schools. The best reparation the Caribbean community can receive is an honest account of slavery in our national curriculum, we need to talk about the evils committed by our British compatriots all those years ago.
Simply throwing money at former colonies will have no real impact. Saying sorry is a complete waste of time. The answer has to be education and that education must contain some of the more inconvenient truths about British History. It should teach us what the grand city centres of Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow are built on; it should encourage young people from all backgrounds to consider history as something much more powerful than the tool of nationalist fantasy. History is freedom from our past but if we only receive half of the story we run the risk of being enslaved by a lack of knowledge. That is why young people and in in particular young 2nd generation Jamaican people feel powerless and angry, because we are never provided with the tool kit to understand ourselves.
As a second generation Jamaican, born here in Britain I am proud of all aspects of my heritage. I just think I would be prouder still if we were brave enough as a society to tell the real stories.