BBC tries umpteenth time to downplay UK role in slavery

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Why did the BBC publish an article glorifying a XNUMXth century Nigerian slave trader amid global BLM protests?

In July 2018, Nigerian journalist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani wrote an honest, captivating and enlightening man article about how his late grandfather's life as a 19th century slave trader shaped his life.

In the extensive essay published by The New Yorker, Nwaubani told intriguing stories about family, Igbo traditions, slavery and colonialism. She explained how his great-grandfather, Nwaubani Ogogo Oriaku, gained wealth and influence during the era of the transatlantic slave trade by selling other Africans and helping missionaries establish Christianity in Nigeria.

She also provided an honest and nuanced account of the conflicting feelings many close to her have about her great-grandfather's legacy.

She told us how her father once said he could never be ashamed of the infamous slave trader. “Why should I be,” she quoted him, “His business was legitimate back then. He was respected by everyone.

But she has also written about her relatives who see it differently. She told us about her cousin Chidi, who grew up in England and chose to hide her family's inglorious past from her British friends. She also wrote about another cousin, Chiomia, who says she asks “God to forgive our ancestors” every time she watches a movie about slavery.

In the essay, Nwaubani highlighted her family's efforts to break away from her painful and tainted history. She mentioned that in 1992, believing that they were being punished for the crimes of their ancestors, the community her family came from chose to adopt a new name to reflect their "breaking away from the atrocities of the past." She also proudly described in detail a deliverance ceremony her family hosted in January 2018 to publicly denounce her role in the slave trade. “During the ceremony I was overwhelmed with relief,” Nwaubani thought to himself, “My family finally took a step beyond the whispers and worry.

According to Nwaubani's account in the New Yorker, his family resisted the temptation to accept their grandfather as a product of his time, took a strong moral stance on slavery and broke completely from his despicable heritage.

If this essay had remained Nwaubani's only account of his family's history, it might have been his sincere contribution to efforts to honestly document one of the most painful periods in human history. She could have persevered as a strong, insightful and emancipatory analysis of the slave trade from an African perspective. More so, in today's progressive political climate, he could have provided an example of how families, communities and societies could honestly reflect on the crimes of their ancestors and redeem themselves from the crushing weight of historical injustices. .

Yet, unfortunately, this is not the case.

On July 19, just seven weeks after the police assassination of George Floyd in Minnesota sparked a worldwide movement for racial justice, Nwaubani chose to re-tell the story of his great-grandfather, this times at the BBC. The new article , titled "My great-grandfather sold slaves", has a whole new editorial focus and never once mentions his family's efforts to accommodate the slave owner's legacy.

This time, the Nigerian journalist describes his grandfather not as someone who "gained power and wealth by selling other Africans across the Atlantic", but simply as "a businessman" who lived in a time when "the fittest survived and the bravest excelled".

There is also no mention of the heartbreaking emotions towards slavery experienced by his family. As a result, there is no sign of the comprehensive, progressive morality that characterized The New Yorker article.

Obviously, unlike the original essay published two years ago, the purpose of the BBC article is not to chronicle a family's struggle to come to terms with the heinous acts of an ancestor, but to offer a defense to this ancestor by stating that the slave masters of yesterday should not be judged by the moral standards of today.

In the BBC article, in a desperate and shocking attempt to glorify a man who traded human beings for a living, Nwaubani even shares an anecdote that portrays his great-grandfather as a hero for to have successfully confronted the officials of the British colonial government after their some of his slaves ".

The BBC article not only attempts to whitewash the legacy of Nwaubani Ogogo Oriaku, but also attempts to blame the transatlantic slave trade on Africans. He states that “the buying and selling of human beings among the Igbo was done long before the arrival of Europeans” and implies that the arrival of Europeans only accelerated an existing and established practice. In doing so, the article clearly intends to play on the UK's role in trafficking an estimated 11-14000000 Africans, many of whom died at sea, or at the hands of angry, hateful lynching mobs or cruel slave masters in America.

In her BBC article, Nwaubani not only gives the impression that slavery was really just an African construct, but also credits the UK for ending it. Without the help of the enlightened and compassionate British Empire, Nwaubani believes, the slave trade would not have never ended. To top it off, she suggests, if the Igbos were in love with statues, her grandfather would certainly deserve to have one built in his honor.

So why did Nwaubani decide to tell her great-grandfather's story and offer him a defense at a time when the Black Live Matters movement's call for racial justice has finally started to be heard in worldwide? And why the BBC decided she had national responsibility to redeem the wounded pride and declining morality of the British Empire with an item glorifying a XNUMXth century Nigerian slave trader at such a significant time in history ?

Nwaubani's revised and highly defensive account of his great-grandfather's life smacks of a desire to protect undue privilege. It is reminiscent of President Donald Trump's desperate attempts to rewrite history and present the slave owners and mass assassins who shaped America's past as "the most daring and courageous people who have ever stepped on. the face of the Earth ".

In her collaboration with the BBC, she is also trying to relieve the UK somewhat from its primary responsibility in promoting the transatlantic slave trade, building colonial structures across Africa and perpetrating racist hierarchies. in the world.

Due to British slavery and colonialism, the BBC enjoys wide reach across Africa via television, radio and online platforms. It is a reliable and popular voice in Africa. However, as Nwaubani's article makes clear, even at a time when the winds of just and gradual change are blowing the world, he is unable to resist the urge to defend the UK's staunch refusal to recognize its leading role in the centuries-long slave trade. .

It was not until 2015 that le British Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, told Jamaicans to "get out" of the "painful legacy of slavery" while praising the role of the United Kingdom in abolishing the slave trade with slaves. The current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is also known for his admiration for the British Empire and his repeated attempts to reject the role of Great Britain in slavery .

Against this background, it is easy to understand why the BBC decided to publish Nwaubani's article presenting slavery as an African construct as the world focused on the UK's colonial legacy.

The efforts of the living beneficiaries of the transatlantic slave trade to stem the winds of change are, however, in vain.

The statues of slave traders, men like Edward Colston, a British merchant who made his fortune through the slave trade in the late 1600s, are forcibly abducted in the USA, in the UK and various other European countries. The United States is reassessing its brutal past and current policies towards police, racism, and black lives. The same goes for Hollywood studios. The same goes for large companies, such as Facebook and Netflix.

The same goes for Africans of all colors .

Nothing what the BBC publishes can never silence voices calling on the UK to heed its long brutal history.

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