Towards a Philosophical Understanding of Black Human Secularism drawn from a West Indian Perspective:
by Donavan Reynolds
It’s quite embarrassing to wish my readers a happy New Year since we have almost completed two months into the New Year. I do apologise to all my valuable readers. I was unavoidably detained by organising a High School reunion and a much needed respite from work. My libido has dipping fast as I approach the 50th anniversary of my birth giving my brain an extra capacity for radical reflection. As I mulled over the blogs that I posted it occurred to me that a rich vein of secularism ran through most of them. Secondly, I embarrassingly discovered that the religious right was at the” fag end “of a lot of my deserved criticism-and rightly so. The evident self critique is that although I had provided an exciting form of writing that was at times informative it was done in an unstructured way and could have been more historically focused. I am always looking for ways to improve my work and to broaden my audience in a progressive and engaging way.
This year I am going to be more organized in my presentation as I intend to lay out my stall as a black secular humanist in my blogs for this year. My writings in 2013 will include the embrace of human reason, ethic, social justice and philosophical naturalism, whist specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality, decision making and public political discourse. Why is it that I emphasise my blackness in this dialectic space? It’s simply because identity culture and ethnicity is inextricable bound. Even if you are an avid deconstructionist you will always be associated with your biology more specifically the colour of your skin. My social consciousness and resentment towards religion arose out of awareness that I am a descendant of slaves brought from Africa to the Caribbean slavery and religion was the axis of evil that sustained the oppression that kept us chained to a capitalist system of forced unpaid labour for 300 years without reparation. While slavery in itself was a wicked and unjust physical act – a mental hoax called religion historically is used to dupe people of African descent mentally into submission and altered the notion within some of us that we were different but equal to our oppressors. (CARICOM) The African Diaspora at its 2007 Global Conference held in Bridgetown, Barbados issued a call for CARICOM governments to collaborate with the African Union in developing appropriate mechanisms to ensure that Third States such as several European states, Canada and the United States expedite the implementation of reparations for their role in slavery.
Throughout my reading of Caribbean History I located a rich vein of black secularism
running the gamut of George Pad more, CLR James, Walter Rodney straight trough to the
late John Maxwell, Journalist Mark Wagnall and Dub poet and cultural icon Mutbaruka.
They have all embraced the post colonial era without getting into ideological bed with the
religious right. It is this rich vein of progressive thinking that I want promote. I believe that as
a people who have endured slavery and colonialism we can only find peace and true
liberation by rearranging our circumstances. Neither can we medicate away our poverty and
ignorance with religion. True confidence as a people must come from understanding our
history which can help us to heal, seek reparation and progress. The course of West Indian history is marked by appalling crimes. We need to take a fresh look at the black Christian evangelical movement and examined how they have betrayed our aspiration for a departure from mental slavery by chaining us to a social representation of the past.
Estimates vary, but somewhere between 20 million and 60 million people were captured, enslaved and brought to the Americas. Millions more died in the slave raids, in the dungeons and in the Middle Passage. The ship in which Hawkins commenced the trade was named The Jesus. Other ships of this pious Christian slave trader John Hawkins bore the names Solomon and John the Baptist. I have evidence to the slave-ship Thomas. Here is a copy of one of the bills of lading:–“Shipped by the grace of God in good order, and well conditioned by James Dodd, in and upon the good ship “Thomas,” master under God for this present voyage, Captain Peter Roberts, and now at anchor at Calabar, and by God’s grace bound for Jamaica, with 630 slaves, men and women, branded D.D., and numbered in the margin 31 D.D., and are to be delivered in good state, and well conditioned, at the port of Kingston (the dangers of the seas and mortality alone excepted) unto Messrs. Broughton & Smith. In witness whereof the master and purser of the ship “Thomas” hath affirmed to this bill of lading, and God send the good ship to her destined port in safety, Amen. October 31st, 1767.”
In what is now Burkina Faso, Ghana’s neighbour to the north, the population was nearly decimated by the slave trade. Most who survived the raids came to either Cape Coast or Elmina (Portuguese for “the mine”). The Dutch and Portuguese bought slaves from Elmina and shipped them via seagoing communal coffins to Brazil, Surinam and other colonies. Slaves from Cape Coast went to the Caribbean and the United States.In 1951, Israeli authorities made a claim to the four powers occupying post-war Germany regarding compensation and reimbursement, based on the fact that Israel had absorbed and resettled 500,000 Holocaust survivors. They calculated that since absorption had cost 3,000 dollars per person ($26,862 in today dollars), they were owed 1.5 billion dollars ($13,400,000,000 in today dollars) by Germany. They also figured that six billion dollars worth of Jewish property had been pillaged by the Nazis, but stressed that the Germans could never make up for what they did with any type of material recompense. Negotiations leading to the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany began in March 1952, and were conducted between representatives of the government of the Federal Republic, the government of the State of Israel, and representatives of the World Jewish Congress, headed by Dr. Goldm. The agreement was signed by Adenauer and Moshe Sharett on September 10, 1952 in the town hall of Luxembourg.
Every time African descendants of slavery living in the Caribbean and the Americas make the argument that if the Jews were compensated for the Holocaust then our clam for compensation for the damages caused by slavery we are accused of being anti Semitic. Maulana Karenga an African-American professor of Africana Studies states that the effects of the African slave trade were “the morally monstrous destruction of human possibility involved redefining African humanity to the world, poisoning past, present and future relations with others who only know us through this stereotyping and thus damaging the truly human relations among people of today”. He cites that it constituted the destruction of culture, language, religion and human possibility. Perhaps the reason why reparation is a difficult is its historical links to the two major religions. Like most holy books, the Bible and the Quran can be used to support particular viewpoints, and slavery is no exception.
There are numerous references to slavery in the Bible and the Quran which can be interpreted to condemn or condone this practice, and even those verses which appear unambiguous, are far from clear when scrutinised. As we continue to assert our identity as Caribbean people it is important for us to begin to reshape our thinking about spirituality. One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding. I am happy to be alive at time when humanity is pushing against the limits of understanding and thinking outside of the box. Voltaire got it right long ago when he opined: ‘Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.’ So did Bertrand Russell who said: ‘Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do.”
Donovan Reynolds is a Blogger and Independent Writer. He is a British based Social Worker and Human rights Activist. He has an interest in Politics, Culture, Human Rights.Rreaders may comment on this blog or email feedback at email@example.com.