Seventeen years ago then Anglican bishop the Right Reverend Rufus Brome issued an apology on behalf of the Anglican Church for its role in slavery.
However, today, the retired cleric sees no real merit in white Barbadians saying sorry for the wrongs of their ancestors.
“I am not sure what an apology would do at this stage,” said Brome as he weighed in on the recent call by Barbados’ Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Robert Bobby Morris.
During a church service at the St Philip Parish Church last Sunday to mark the 200th anniversary of the Bussa rebellion, Morris suggested that an apology would be on par with reparations from Britain.
But Brome, the former deputy chairman of the 1999 National Reconciliation Commission, told Barbados TODAY that while he understood Morris’ position, the island had already moved on.
“There is a certain measure of integration in the life of the country . . . so I don’t have very strong feelings about whites having to apologize at this time,” the former church leader, who in 1993, was elected the 12th Bishop of Barbados.
He cautioned that such a move could lead to one group being alienated instead of placing the focus on healing and getting ahead.
“Already in my own dealings with people, there are some whites who are beginning to feel that they are being ostracized even within the church. There are some who think there is no room for me when it comes to ordination and that kind of thing. So even though we remember our past it doesn’t have to be that kind of thing,” stressed Brome, who retired in 2000.
However, the former head of the local church was adamant that his lack of support for an apology should not be interpreted to mean he was advocating for the past to
In fact, he was critical of British Prime Minister David Cameron who, during an official visit to Jamaica in September 2015, called on Caribbean countries to “move on” while rejecting the push for Britain to pay reparations for its role in the slave trade.
“I can’t agree with him at all,” Brome said, while urging strong support for the lobby to secure financial compensation.
“You can’t take people who say just forget the past seriously. The past is part of our history, you cannot forget it. What you can do is to treat persons in different ways. But to say forget slavery is to say forget history and that is part of our history.”
The respected Anglican minister stressed the country should look forward to building a community where all interests are empowered.
Reflecting on the work of the 1999 Commission, Brome recalled that during the meetings, “young people didn’t see colour as a problem in Barbados. They were instead calling for things like economic empowerment.
“What we need to do in moving forward is to see that this country and whatever we have in this country is available to all and it is not enough to sing an anthem and to raise a flag and say, ‘oh yes, we are independent’. We have got to be able to share our resources and so on,” he advised.
Brome stressed that the nation’s wealth should not be confined to “a handful of people”, even as he urged black Barbadians to study the development of their ancestors who survived against all odds.
“Your colour or class does not define you . . . we need to be able to say that. The message of reparation is a powerful message but you have to begin with what Marcus Garvey said. You have to repair the damage of the mind,” he insisted.