“We’re not expecting that the reparatory damages will be paid in a year, or two, or five because the extraction of wealth and the damages took place over centuries. But we are demanding that we be seen and that we are heard,” Mottley said during her lecture at the London School of Economics.
On the previous day, Mottley met with British Foreign Minister David Cameron but declined to disclose whether she asked him about a reparations payment to her Caribbean nation. However, Mottley said she expected “the foreign secretary will take his lead from his majesty.”
King Charles III made headlines when he expressed an openness to discuss Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade, saying “time has come” for that conversation.
“I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact,” the then Prince of Wales said at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in June 2022, CNN reported.
The Commonwealth needs to “find new ways to acknowledge our past,” Charles added. “Quite simply, this is a conversation whose time has come.”
Mottley applauded Charles’ remarks, praising him “for having the courage to recognize this is a conversation that the time has come to have.”
However, neither the king nor the U.K. government has apologized for its role in the slave trade. BBC reports that British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak dismissed a Parliament member’s call in April to apologize and commit to reparatory justice.
Sunak said, “No,” adding, “trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward.”
The Guardian reports that Mottley has been a leading voice in the African Diaspora reparations movement, taking the conversation from the fringes to the mainstream.
She said the United Kingdom owes $24 trillion in reparations to 14 countries affected by British slavery. Mottley cited a study that calculated how much the United Kingdom and other European countries owe in reparations.
According to the report, Spain owes $17.1 trillion, France owes $9.2 trillion and the Netherlands owes $4.86 trillion.
“These numbers, if taken out of context, can appear to be staggering. But in relation to the total wealth accumulated over a period of time, the numbers are actually minuscule,” Mottley said.
Scholars say the transatlantic chattel slave trade took at least 12 million Africans from their homelands and transported them to European colonies between the 16th and 19th centuries.
In the broader reparations movement, African and Caribbean nations have united in demanding compensation from countries that benefited from slavery and colonialism. At a meeting in November, they agreed to establish a Global Reparations Fund to redress Europeans accumulating great wealth by enslaving Africans without compensation and the ongoing consequences for their descendants.
English settlers first occupied Barbados in 1627 under British control and developed a sugar plantation economy, according to Reuters. The United Kingdom abolished slavery in 1834, but the island remained a colony until gaining independence in 1966.