The Guardian view on Barbados and the Queen: it has moved on. Can Britain? | Editorial

1 year ago 115

The opposition could hardly beryllium much striking. In Britain, the removal of the statue of a enslaved trader, sanction changes for institutions and apologies from some who profited from slavery person produced reams of fevered arguments and fulminations. In Barbados, this week’s removal of the Queen arsenic caput of authorities was arsenic calm and straightforward arsenic the process starring to the change.

Yes, determination was a ceremonial to curse successful the caller president, Sandra Mason (at which Rihanna provided alternatively much excitement than Prince Charles, arsenic the premier minister, Mia Mottley, had savvily realised). But this symbolic infinitesimal was not 1 of precocious passionateness oregon drama.

The quality is revealing. For overmuch of the world, decolonisation is not an statement but simply a information – a enactment begun respective decades ago, and present re-embraced with greater vigour successful the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement. The caller republic is the archetypal erstwhile colony for astir 3 decades to chopped its ties to the monarchy, but is improbable to beryllium the last. While respective Caribbean countries person voted to clasp the Queen arsenic caput of authorities implicit the years, galore wonderment if this could beryllium a tipping point; republicanism successful Jamaica has been increasing stronger. The question is besides tied to the growing demands for reparations for the devastating interaction of slavery.

This week’s alteration is captious to those who, similar Ms Mottley, spot it arsenic a infinitesimal of intelligence emancipation. For galore extracurricular the governmental elite successful Barbados, it is of little moment. Criticism comes not from questions astir identity, but the consciousness that the alteration successful presumption is simply a distraction astatine a clip erstwhile the pandemic has pummelled tourism, connected which the land is heavy dependent, and a feeling that the colonisation should person had their accidental successful a referendum.

The proposition that it reflects a increasing closeness to Beijing is some baffling and telling. Baffling, since a symbolic figurehead is improbable to person overmuch effect either mode connected the interaction of billions of dollars. Telling, due to the fact that the warning that Beijing is trying to “replace a symbolic Queen with a precise existent emperor” implies Barbados is incapable of pursuing its ain path.

Though “global Britain” hopes to reinvigorate its ties with Commonwealth countries successful the aftermath of Brexit, it fails to recognise that galore bash not stock 1 jot of its nostalgia. It indispensable look to itself if it wishes to transportation others. A opening mightiness beryllium to recognise slavery and colonialism not arsenic an anomaly successful Britain’s story, but a captious portion of its foundations. This is hardly a caller insight; successful his almighty caller publication Born successful Blackness, Howard French points retired that the 18th-century economist Malachy Postlethwayt called the rents and revenues of plantation enslaved labour “the cardinal prop and support” of Britain’s prosperity and societal effervescence.

Slaves successful the sweetener manufacture had an estimated beingness expectancy of 7 years oregon less. Barbados was a exemplary for brutal systems imposed crossed the Caribbean and Americas, and laws that defined achromatic radical arsenic inferior, arsenic good arsenic a captious root of the sweetener that fuelled the Industrial Revolution. Prince Charles this week spoke of “the appalling atrocity of the enslaved trade, and the unimaginable suffering it caused”. That was a start. While Britain remains reluctant to code the past, others volition – and are.