For a moment, imagine yourself as a child of indigenous lands. Your people’s entire way of life for centuries has been maintained by the arable soil, lush greenery and the raising of cattle. You live your days in the village learning from the stories of your ancestors and doing you part in the continuation of your people’s culture.
One day, as you walk along the shores, you see from a distance gargantuan wooden vessels resting on your sands. A few strange, yet important looking people exit the ships, sporting strange attire, which complements their bizzare physicality. Their skin is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Soon after their arrival, they begin to build their settlements on your land. Day by day, week by week, month by month, they edge deeper and deeper into the area. But they don’t do this fairly. They buy out your people’s land fraudulently and refuse to stand firm on their end of the deal, all while encroaching further and further.
The more they do this, the more their heedless acquisition of your ancestral earth becomes comparable to theft. The rape of land and resource correlates to the rape of the women. But the chiefs of the foreigners are quite reluctant in punishing them. It’s as if they are encouraging the violation and exploitation of your people.
Genocide. That is all your people know for the next five or so years. Slaughter and mutilation of unimaginable bounds. They gather the people and force them into slavery in camps within the nearest desert.
Think deeply about the trauma that this would inflict onto you, a child, as you realize your worth to these aggressors. To them, you are property. To them, you are a disposable utility. With this idea, they are able to justify anything.
To prove their superiority, or rather, your inferiority, they begin to behead the meek amongst your people for medical experimentation. But the settlers don’t have the desire to go through with the dirty work of removing the flesh from the skulls. So, they make you do it under the threat of a gory death. They give you glass to scrape the flesh off your relative’s severed head.
Imagine the dead eyes of your loved one looking at you while you peel their cold skin from their face. Imagine yourself slipping into absolute delirium, and you see the head of your kin that’s resting on your lap, while asking, “Why?” with an agonizing tone. A tone of betrayal, even. What would you answer?
Imagine that people who believe they have the divine right to own the world arrive with clear intentions to subjugate you and do so without a smudge of shame or reluctance in their face.
Imagine fighting with all of your being to defend everything you have ever known and loved. Imagine, you fight and defend, only for the aggressors to steal the entirety of your world by mutilating you and prying everything from your dead hands.
Imagine being enslaved and having your mother stolen from you and beheaded. Imagine hoping to see her face just one more time, only to see her soullessness while carving her skin from her head, so that it can be mounted in some university.
Well, you don’t need to imagine. All of this was real. The Herero and Namaqua Genocide was the first of the 20th century, and one of the most brutal. Imperial Germany, the aggressor, still has yet to compensate the victims of its imperial savagery in full. The most they have done is return the skulls to their descendants just last year.
If you were experiencing the pain that the Herero and Namaqua had endured, would you find it unreasonable to ask for justice? The rage of having your people dishonored in such ghastly ways would make any sane or insane man cry in agony.
Assuming you say no, then of course the victims of imperialism and colonialism all over the world must be compensated for their suffering as well.
Whether it’s the Irish, the Romani or the Slavs in Europe. Or the Moro, the citizens of Nanjing or the Malays in Eastern Asia. Or the thousands upon thousands of massacred Amerindian nations.
It is abhorrent that the British Empire benefited from the starvation of Bengal and went unpunished. People on the verge of death were forced to dig through each other’s excrement to find any sustenance. It is within reason to suggest that Britain must suffer tremendous losses and give back what is rightfully owed to India.
It is maddening that Belgium is developed and prosperous, while having stolen the Congo of its wealth as a means to that success. Imperial forces severed the hands of children for not meeting the rubber quota.
How can we waive away these atrocities when the developing world is still suffering from the consequences of colonialism and “the White man’s burden”?
Either the oppressors face an organized and brutal punishment similar to what they have inflicted upon the oppressed (an eye for an eye) or they return the resources they have stolen from their colonies and stand to face the vengeful spirits of billions in our global courts.
We can no longer ignore justice by citing the passage of time as to why justice mustn’t be carried out. They have had their turn to subjugate and rob us of our former pride. But when our turn comes, we will carry with us justice, not reconciliation, while demanding retribution, not reparation.