Member of the european parliament from France insubordinate, Younous Omarjee is proposing today in Strasbourg that the european Parliament recognizes solemnly the slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity. New sequel of the cult of memory, or need to rebuild the communities ? Interview.
Younous Amorjee © Michel Christen
The Point : Why do you want that the european Parliament officially recognized today by a vote, that the abolition of slavery and the slave trade are crimes against humanity ?
Younous Omarjee : We are in an important moment in the history of struggles against racial discrimination. The eight minutes during which, at Minneapolis, George Floyd said several times that he could not breathe as he was choked by a white policeman have paradoxically given the breath of life to those who, through the world, fight against racism and discrimination, but also to Afro-descendants in general. As if they recognized themselves in this suffering, they no longer wanted to be smothered, too, and they wanted to make their voices heard. In a time like this, the actions and symbolic gestures are important, and the european Parliament cannot and must not remain outside of this debate. This is not the first time that it has been solicited on this topic. When she was a member of the european parliament, Roselyne Bachelot had proposed a resolution in writing, and after it, Paul Vergès. But there had been no vote. Today, this proposal is integrated to a joint resolution which must be the subject of a vote. This would be the first time that an international organization would recognize slavery and trafficking as crimes against humanity, but this would only follow the example of France, with the Taubira law of 2001. I have also suggested that the 2 December, the date chosen by the UN for the struggle against slavery of all human beings, is to be accepted as a european date of commemoration or remembrance for the crimes of slavery, as it exists in France on the 10 may.
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What is the interest for Europe ?
slavery, and especially the racism yesterday and today belong to the european reality. There arose the theories "scientific" prioritization racial that were used to justify slavery, but also the colonization and the Holocaust, etc, At some point in its history where more and more admirers of fascism make their voices heard, the legislature should seize this historic opportunity to fulfil its duty of memory and reaffirmation of the values of civilization which Europe is built. All Europeans are concerned, not only Afro-descendants.
The Europeans have practiced the slave trade for several centuries, it is true, but they have been declared illegal since the end of the Nineteenth century. And these are they who have promulgated the Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen. The cult of memory, is it not a handicap to go ahead and build his own destiny ?
It is not a question of locking up people in an attitude of victim. I am of The Meeting. In this multicultural island, the people feel fully French, but the problem of slavery and the exploitation of indian workers is not taboo. This was, it is true, a long battle. If slavery was abolished in 1848, it was not until 1981 and the arrival of the socialists to power, and then Jospin in 1997, in order to claim true equality. And even today, in Mayotte, the equality is not total. It is not necessary to throw a veil over those periods of history that are the basis of inequality and discrimination today. It is necessary to be able to recognize the errors and the wrongs that have been committed. Look things in the face, as a whole, it is also mark our attachment to the values of France, but also of european unity. This must be done in the diversity. And this is not to be separatist than the claim, contrary to what was stated by the president Macron. On the other hand, refuse to hear the claims, it is risk to go to the confrontation.
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such A vote could have legal consequences, particularly in terms of repairs ?
This recognition can only be symbolic. Material reparations ? How to calculate ? I believe more in solutions such as the cancellation of the debt of african countries.
across the world, the Americans will attack the ghosts of the past, it is destroyed or déboulonne statues of personalities that have played a role in the colonies or in the treaty. What do you think ?
There, too, is symbolic. The statues, street names are elements of the national narrative. It has honored people who had turned other human beings into things. It was, apparently, normal in the Nineteenth century. But is it acceptable today ? I repeat, recognize the wrongs that have been committed, it is also restoring vitality to the values of the Republic and of Europe.
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