Colonialism is Racism


The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was a double-edged sword benefiting Europe and devastating Africa. It initiated the trafficking in African human beings to be enslaved and work in the "New World." It is an indisputable historical truth that the wealth created by that enslavement fueled the Industrial Revolution that, if we honestly track the historical turn of events, has created this century's "developed world." The complement to and handmaiden of slavery and the slave trade was colonialism. It was to work the "colonies" that Africans were first brought to the Americas. The colonies were exploited for their natural resources and for those that were then created by unpaid labor. First and foremost the resources went always to and for the benefit of the "Mother Country."

The TAST depleted Africa of millions of its strongest and most fit workers. That loss in and of itself was devastating to Africa's development. This dire situation was further compounded by the colonization of the African continent. Racism, the same ideology developed by Europeans to justify their inhumane trafficking in Africans, was then used to justify the European colonization of, not only Africa, but the rest of the world. Racism, first directed towards Africans, became the ideology of choice for European expansion and colonization of Asia and the Pacific. "Inferior peoples" (always non-white) were being brought the benefits of civilization. In exchange for the wonders of Christianity, they need only surrender their lands, its resources, their labor and right to self-determination. Those who would not concede the advantages of Christianity were to be convinced by steel and gunpowder. Thus by persuasion and force of arms, Europeans implanted themselves on the American and Asian continents and the Pacific Islands. Often their strategy was genocidal, elimination of the truly indigenous where they proved unwilling or unfit to provide a sufficient profit for their colonial masters.

The conditions of Africans in the Diaspora and the African continent are characterized by "underdevelopment." That underdevelopment is neither genetic or the result of individual character flaws but flow directly from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Slavery and Colonialism. They are inseparably intertwined and bound together by racism. Any attempt to sever them is ahistorical. Any attempt to redress one aspect without addressing the others is doomed to failure. This connection between racism, the TAST and colonialism is not simply an issue for Africa and Africans. Remember, "The sun never sets on the British Empire." This is a global issue, which is why the West's resistance to it has been so fierce, so "intransigent." If the WCAR establishes the principle of the TAST and Colonialism as crimes against humanity, a precedent will be set from which the vast majority of the world's countries, nearly all former colonies, can benefit.

Just as the vestiges of slavery have persisted through the formal abolition of slavery, through the share cropping system, Jim Crow, de jure and then de facto segregation in the US, so has colonialism refused to loosen its grip on its former colonies. Kwame Nkrumah called it "neo-colonialism."The European overseers were physically replaced by their African counterparts, but the control and profits of the economy were still primarily for the Mother Country. Flag independence did not equal economic self-determination and control. This is why if one looks at just one area of Africa, the SADC region, you find that a minority of whites still control and direct the economy and own the best land. When Africans have the audacity to assert their right to self-determination and ownership of lands which were stolen from them by European settler-colonist and their descendants, they are told they have no right. They must engage in a business transaction to purchase the goods which were stolen from them. Those who refuse to or cannot play this shell game, become demonized in the Western press (Mugabe, Mbeki).

Colonialism and the slave trade represented an international criminal conspiracy of Europeans for Europeans. Like organized crime gangs who start out fighting for their own turf and, at some point realize, killing each other is counter-productive. Europe summed up it is better to divide the spoils amongst each other than to continually fight against each other. The clearest expression of this international conspiracy, of this European criminal enterprise, took place in Berlin in 1885-86. The Berlin Conference divided Africa up between the colonial masters. It made for a more tidy racket. Don't infringe on each other's. Notwithstanding the fact that these gangs didn't always respect their territorial agreements (WWI and WWII), they always submerged their differences when a threat to white supremacy was posed by the "colored" hordes.


In the case of Africa and the Caribbean region, the period of slavery and the slave trade was followed by the period of colonialism. It can be argued that colonialism itself was a crime in international law, for it was usurpation, imposed by force, of the rights of the colonized peoples to their sovereignty. It was a the very least a crime against peace, and, in most if not all colonized territories, crimes against humanity were frequently committed. In the case of the United States, former slaves were subjected to a system of exclusive, separate development, racial persecution, civil rights denials and ghettoisation, which has only in part been overcome in the recent years following the civil rights movement.

The important point is that African peoples, until recently, had no independent voice, nor even any status in the world community. How could, the people of, say, Ghana o Jamaica make a claim for reparations when their country was considered to be an 'overseas possession' of the very country whose people had kidnapped and enslaved their ancestors? ... Even after the independence of African nations from colonialism, the shackles of neo-colonialism have fettered the power of African governments to speak with any real independence against their former conquerors.
-Excerpt from Lord Gifford speech on Reparations at Abuja Summit 1993:

"In the past we could talk about apartheid in Africa. Today we can talk of apartheid in the world at large, in which more than four billion people lack the most basic rights of human beings: life; health; education; clean water; food; housing; employment, and hope for the future and for that of their children.

The wealthy world tries to forget that the sources of underdevelopment and poverty were slavery, colonialism and the brutal exploitation and plunder to which our countries were subjected ... They attribute the poverty we suffer to the inability of, yellow-skinned, indigenous and mixed-race peoples, to achieve any degree of development, or even to govern ourselves.

I am firmly convinced that the current economic order imposed by the wealthy countries is ... inherently racist."

-President Fidel Castro, Group of 77 Presidential Summit, April 2000.

"The current status of the underdevelopment of the African continent, in particular, and of the South, in general, is tied to the over-accumulation and concentration of wealth and power in the North. Racism has been their tool of choice to implement and maintain that state of underdevelopment. The demand at the WCAR must be for redress for the unjust enrichment that the North has criminally benefited from. Compensation and reparations must remain part of the agenda. Slavery, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Colonialism must be declared as crimes against humanity. These are the stepping stones towards some real, concrete resolution of the scourge of racism as the twenty-first century gets underway."

-Excerpt from "Racism and Development" D12 Movement, August 2000

"Part of the African strategy to redress its historically coerced underdevelopment has been to demand compensation for the losses it sustained from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Slavery and Colonialism. This compensation, these reparations cannot simply be relief from the foreign debt it has accrued in order to survive in the post-colonial era. But also the provision of the funds, resources and expertise necessary to move forward, to develop. It is this understanding that informs the demands of the Dakar Declaration to the World Conference against Racism for compensation to Africa and to Africans in the Diaspora. For Africans in the Diaspora, whether they exist as oppressed peoples or nations or collectivities of underdevelopment, face the same problem that African states do, i.e. their right to development has been and continues to be violated.

"The right to development is fundamental and inalienable. It cannot be implemented until and unless the industrialized countries desist from the obstacles that they consciously place in the way of those countries whose underdevelopment is the basis of their advanced position in the world. One of the clearest and most immediate expressions of their willingness to implement the right to development will be the North's agreement to recognize the right to "compensatory relief," in general, at the WCAr, and, of reparations to Africa and the African Diasporan victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Slavery and Colonialism, in particular."

-Excerpts from D12 Movement, AICT intervention on the right to development, CHR 2001