Prince William and Duchess Kate’s three-country tour of the Caribbean has not been without daily controversy.
Another day, another controversy. As the Cambridges start the final leg of their Caribbean tour in the Bahamas, Prince William’s speech denouncing slavery has been branded as “tone deaf” and “not enough” by advocates and politicians.
In an essay, senior member of Jamaican parliament Lisa Hanna—who spent time with William and Kate during their visit to Kingston—wrote, “Condemning slavery with no action, as both Prince Charles and Prince William did, is not particularly bold, nor does it show courage. I would hope that this rhetoric is a start and not an end to their journey on the issue of reparations and justice.”
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Advocates Network, which led a demonstration calling for reparations and an apology from the British government and monarchy, branded his comments “tone deaf.” In a written statement, the coalition of politicians, business leaders, doctors, and musicians said, “The expression of ‘profound sorrow’ is unacceptable. Why? It is merely an acknowledgement that slavery was abhorrent. A bad thing that all well thinking persons would condemn. There was no responsibility taken!”
They continued, “No call out of centuries of British bloody conquest and plunder. No call out of the dehumanization and exploitation. Expressing ‘gratitude for the immense contribution that this generation and descendants made … which continues to enrich our society’ whitewashes the abhorrent involvement and enrichment of the monarchy of which the Duke is heir.”
At a state dinner on Wednesday, March 23, the Duke of Cambridge expressed his grief over Britain’s history of slavery, but he stopped short of apologizing or mentioning reparations. “I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened,” he told guests at the home of Jamaica’s governor general, Patrick Allen.
He added, “While the pain runs deep, Jamaica continues to forge its future with determination, courage, and fortitude. I strongly agree with my father, the Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history.”
This morning, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will continue with engagements in the Bahamas—their third and final leg of a tour being carried out in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. Last night, they were greeted at the Lynden Pindling International Airport by Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper and Attorney General Ryan Pinder.
The couple, royal sources say, are now hoping they can put the focus “back onto the work,” but with new demonstrations repeating demands for reparations and criticizing the Bahamian government for covering the costs of William and Kate’s royal visit, the Cambridges’ itinerary—which includes a school visit and taking part in a sailing regatta—may continue to be overshadowed.
Earlier this week, the Bahamas National Reparations Committee issued a document ahead of William and Kate’s Thursday arrival. And last night, the House of Rastafari, an umbrella organization that represents Rastafarians in the Caribbean country, confirmed to Britain’s Independent that it intends to protest and lobby Britain for reparations for the enslavement and trafficking of African people.
“Bahamas is still under colonial rule and the Westminster system but we, as Rastas, don’t serve the system or the Queen. We can never forget slavery or the atrocities done to my people from the royal family,” Priest Marcus said. “We’re looking forward to an official apology and reparations—many Bahamians feel the same way. 400 years of slavery can’t be forgotten easily just like that; the damage has to be repaired. We will protest.”
The head of the Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress Bahamas branch has also written a letter to the Cambridges. The Most Right Honourable High Priest Rithmond McKinney told the couple that the Bahamas’ Rastafari community wants “to be returned home to our own vine and fig tree, Ethiopia/Africa, with compensation. … We don’t just want an apology from the British monarchy; we want action behind it. We want restorative justice.”