The deputy chairperson of the National Task Force on Reparations in Barbados has cleared the confusion surrounding English actor Benedict Cumberbatch.
Late last month, The Telegraph reported that Cumberbatch and his family were on a target list in a bid to obtain financial compensation for the descendants of enslaved people living on the Caribbean island, Newsweek reported.
Cumberbatch’s seventh great-grandfather acquired the Cleland plantation located on the north part of the island in 1728. At the time, 250 enslaved people were kept there until the abolition of slavery in the 1830s, The Telegraph, a U.K. newspaper, also reported. When slavery ended, the British government compensated enslavers on the island to compensate for their business loss.
That loan to compensate them was fully paid off in 2015.
Apparently, Cumberbatch’s ancestors received compensation of $1.2 million. The Telegraph asked Comissiong if descendants of the plantation’s owners would be pursued for reparations.
“This is at the earliest stages,” the publication quoted Comissiong saying in response. “We are just beginning. A lot of this history is only really now coming to light,” a quote that Comissiong says was taken out of context.
On January 2, Barbados Today published an op-ed in which Comissiong accused The Telegraph of not only quoting him out of context but also “putting words” in his mouth. He also claimed that the newspaper is on a “mission to concoct its own narrative” about the reparations campaign.
Comissiong clarified that the newspaper’s journalist asked him if Barbados “intends to pursue a reparations claim against the family of someone named Benedict Cumberbatch, and when one answered that one does not know who Benedict Cumberbatch is nor anything about his family’s supposed involvement in slavery in Barbados, that answer is reported as my having asserted that Barbados has not ruled out pursuing a reparations claim against Mr. Cumberbatch and his family!”
“And then suddenly there is a big international news story about Barbados pursuing a Reparations claim against the said Benedict Cumberbatch!”
He also said that the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which includes Barbados, in 2016 “advanced a reparations claim against six Western European governments—inclusive of the government of the United Kingdom—for Reparations for the damage that Barbados and the other CARICOM nations experienced during the centuries of European-orchestrated Native genocide and African enslavement.”
“And the claim was advanced against the national Government because it constitutes the institutional linkage between the European nation’s present and its past.
“In the following years, CARICOM and, by extension, Barbados, extended the Reparations claim to currently existing European companies and institutions that were either directly implicated in the crimes committed during those centuries of genocide and enslavement or that benefitted financially from the said crimes.”
“To date, neither CARICOM nor Barbados has officially leveled a Reparations claim against a European family,” added Comissiong.
“And, clearly, the reason is that it is much easier to establish a Reparations claim against a legal entity such as a national Government or a company than it is against a family. A family, after all, may be subject to all types of discontinuities and admixtures over an extensive period of time.”