Friday, November 15, 2019

Liverpool's Slave Auction Re-enactment is Shameful

Liverpool University had hosted the Group of Trainers in Clinical Psychology conference last week – and during the conference dinner, it did something odious, obnoxious and offensive. It put up a show that was a slave auction re-enactment. 

There was no warning that the program would be taking place – and horrified attendees branded the show “unexpected” and “ill-judged”, to put it mildly. 

In fact, the organizers were despicably disgraceful – and dumb! 

These people who are responsible for the Group of Trainers in Clinical Psychology conference must have a screw loose – and admitting they had not “thought sufficiently” about how the presentation would be received, is simply not enough an apology. 

As Samantha Rennalls, a trainee clinical psychologist, asked: “Is clinical psychology a safe place to be for black people? Are we even seen? Does anyone actually care?” 

Chris Jones, a clinical psychologist, declared: “The re-enactment of the slave auction at #GTiCP2019 was a shameful day in the history of British Clinical Psychology”.

These simpletons might have attempted to use the performance as a way to acknowledge UK’s oppressive colonial history – instead, they turned it on its head by making it into a spectacle that had the effect of diminishing that history to representing black people through slavery. 

And this was in Liverpool itself? It was so, so wrong! 

Surely, they knew that Liverpool's maritime history played a crucial role in bringing the city to a position of global power and prominence. 

Surely, they knew too that among the maritime trade flowing in and out of the city was a thriving slave trade that made merchants rich off the back of human suffering. 

By 1795, Liverpool controlled over 80% of the British and over 40% of the entire European slave trade. Liverpool was the European capital of the slave trade from the 1780s right up until slavery was abolished in Britain in 1807. 

Slaves for sale – an advertisement in 1766 edition of the Williamson Advertiser, on show at the slavery exhibition in the maritime museum in Liverpool. Image credit: Liverpool Echo, October 18, 2018 

In fact, in 1999, Liverpool City Council passed a formal motion apologizing for the city's part in the slave trade. And this year, on August 23 marked the city’s 20th year of commemoration for Slavery Remembrance Day:

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