The host of the BBC’s sports show, ‘Football Focus’, has spoken of her shock at learning that her Jamaican ancestor owned 26 slaves on a huge plantation.
Robert Francis Coombs, who was a black man, and is a 4 by great grandfather to former Arsenal captain Alex Scott, held people in slavery between 1817 and 1832 according to an upcoming episode of a BBC documentary show.
In a preview clip, a stunned Scott says: “I was very aware we may be delving into the topic of slavery, but I really did believe I’d be learning about my family as slaves, not the other side, as the slave owners.”
She acknowledges that “I don’t think that stories are told a lot about black people owning slaves.”
Scott is seen as a champion of diversity and inclusivity in the BBC.
The BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?‘ made revelations after researching Scott’s family when she agreed to be part of the show.
Scott believed that any research into slavery connections within her family history might have revealed that some of her antecedents may have been slaves rather than slave owners, and her shock was palpable.
Of course she is not responsible for any of that although all of this pop genealogy is clearly designed to attach some vicarious virtue to what some long dead relative might have done. So owning the opposite is equally valid, or invalid.
The fact that some black people owned slaves would only have come as news to people who have been imbued with the notion that such a thing was impossible. Likewise ignored is the fact that the entire cross Atlantic slave trade to the Caribbean and America could not have begun or lasted so long had it not been for a long pre-existing slave economy in Africa in which millions of people were captured and sold by other “people of colour.”
Slavery was abolished, mostly under the influence of Christian campaigners against the vile trade, in the west. Slavery was never voluntarily abandoned in Africa, and indeed still exists with many millions still in bondage.
Hopefully, Alex Scott will not feel somehow responsible for what Robert Francis Coombe did in Jamaica two hundred years ago. It is unlikely there will be much of a demand for her to be denied a “platform” or that her salary be garnished for reparations. Or even that she be made apologise and accept that whatever she and her extended family might ever do or say will be forever tainted by her distant ancestry.
Which would be absurd.