The great and the good are again demanding that Britain offers an apology for slavery. I will make my position very clear, I do not want anyone offering an apology on my behalf.
Token gestures of apology from people who bare no responsibility and who should bare no guilt are simply token gestures and serve no purpose in any case. If someone had attacked my grandfather 80 years ago, I wouldn't expect the grandson of my grandfathers attacked to offer an apology. After all, it is not his fault, he is not to blame.
Those who call for an apology from the British government are asking for a token apology. "So if it is a token apology, why not give it ?" I imagine would be a general response. I would again argue that this government should only apologise for things it did. This government has much to apologise for. The War in Iraq, overspending and cock ups in virtually all departments, issuing 10,00 false passports a year, and on and on. However, they were not responsible for slavery or the slave trade. To my mind it would be similar to the Scotland football manager issuing an apology for England's performance at football. Utterly pointless and irrelevant in any context.
So aside from the points I have made, why am I so against an apology ? Firstly, if the government apologised on behalf of Britain, they are apologising on behalf of the country. Why do I need to apologise ? My family, according to the family tree work we have done, on my father's side, come form a long line of fenland farm labourers. It is clear from what we have discovered that my father's side of the family were living on the bread line for about as far back as we can trace them. No money, no slave ownership, and indeed, if anything ownership of slaves by the wealthy would have denied my family the chance of working themselves. Looking at the very high death rate amongst the children of my family at that time, it is clear that they were the poorest of the poor and lived a pretty miserable existence. On my mother's side, our family arrived from The Netherlands to help drain the fens, then stayed on in the 19th century to do some small scale farming. So what have I got to apologise for ? My family were either not living in the UK when the slave trade was active or were poor subsistence workers living at the very bottom of the social scale.
During the week there was a feature about slavery on BBC Look East every day. One day, I was shocked to hear a little mixed race boy speaking about slavery. His mother came from a family that can trace its roots back to the slave trade, whilst his white father and his family are just an ordinary typical white Anglo Saxon family. The chocking bit was when the boy said, and this is paraphrased " I am proud of my mother's family, but I find it hard to understand how my father's ancestors could be involved in slavery".
Let me make it clear, there was absolutely nothing in the report to say they "were" involved in slavery, but this boy had been taught that "all white people were involved in slavery". This is complete rubbish.
There was in interesting programme on Radio Four last Monday evening which was about a black journalist an writer going to Ghana to understand the complicity of certain tribes in rounding up slaves for European ships to take away. Indeed, it would be called ethnic cleansing today. But do we hear calls for Ghana to apologise ?
So let us celebrate the fact that the UK was the first to abolish slavery, let us remember how slavery is still an issue today, but please do not offer an apology on my behalf as I have done nothing wrong.