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An Indian politician says Britain owes reparations to its colonies, and his message is going viral.

While we can't change history, it's important that we acknowledge the facts of our colonialist pasts.

An Indian politician says Britain owes reparations to its colonies, and his message is going viral.

In the United States, independence from Britain is a distant memory that we celebrate with burgers and a beer. But in India, the wounds of colonialism are more recent — and more raw.

By the early 20th century, the United Kingdom ruled over one-fourth of the world. Most of those countries didn't gain independence until after World War II, a detail that tends to be overlooked in U.S. history books. And if you think European colonists in America had good reason to rebel against British rule, India definitely did.

Think of India like a big ol' apartment building. The Indian people have been living there for a while — centuries, even — before a new, oppressive, absentee landlord (*cough* Britain *cough*) came along and continually upped the rent while refusing to fix the toilet. Or the mouse problem. And by "toilet" and "mouse problems," I mean introduced violence, slavery/indentured servitude, and the destruction and theft of language and culture, all for profit.


And on top of that, the same terrible landlord didn't even give your security deposit back. I think you'd have a right to be upset. And that's sort of — in a very general, metaphorical way — how some Indians feel about the era of British colonialism.

GIF from the greatest speech ever written in the history of American cinema ("Independence Day")

There are people like Shashi Tharoor who believe that Britain should repay India and other former colonies for centuries of oppression.

Tharoor is an author, politician, and member of the Indian parliament who boasts such an impressive resume that I can hardly even begin to summarize it here. With more than 3 million followers on Twitter, he's also a bit of an academic celebrity.

In May 2015, Tharoor gave a speech that has reached millions of people — proving that his message has an audience.

The speech, which went viral on YouTube and Facebook, took place during a debate on reparations, just one in an ongoing series hosted by the Oxford Union, a prestigious society at the Oxford University.

Tharoor was the seventh out of eight speakers that night, and he totally brought the house down. Here are just a few of the highlights that made it such a hit:


All GIFs via Oxford Union.

Tharoor's speech not only shut down the opposition, but it also reinvigorated the conversation around colonialism and reparations.

At the end of the debate, members of the Oxford Union voted for the more convincing argument. Thanks in no small part to Tharoor's passionate exhortation, the proponents of British reparations won the debate by a tally of 185 to 56.

The speech played well on the Internet, where the message resonated with younger Indians, a sign that the scars of colonialism don't fade away so easily.

There are people who subscribe to the belief that once something stops, it's over and done with. But anyone who was ever bullied or hurt by a close friend or relative will tell you otherwise. Now apply that same psychological scarring to a national identity, and make it last for centuries. You get the picture.

The historical impact of colonial oppression is still felt all across the world — from India to Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Even today, Britain retains a strong presence in India. And India isn't the only country that has struggled with the consequences of colonialism. Nor is the United Kingdom the only country that has systematically oppressed a group of people.

Tharoor's arguments against the benefits of "enlightened despotism" can easily be applied to America's treatment of black Americans and Native Americans. Like the minority outreach panel in 2013 where a participant defended slavery as altruism for giving food and shelter to black people, or literally any reference to Native Americans as being savage or uncivilized before they encountered Europeans.

Here we are, more than a century since the end of an "official" oppression against either group — and yet they still suffer from the effects of colonialism in ways both subtle and obvious (take a look at what's happening with Native Americans right now).

It's not just people of color, either. Speaking as an Irish American, I can point to the experience of my own ancestors, who were driven to migration by Britain's genocidal negligence in the face of the Great Hunger. And while I'm certainly grateful to have been born in this country, I'm also aware of how my name has been Anglicized thanks to Britain's campaign to replace the Irish language with English.

While we can't change history, it's important that we acknowledge the facts of our colonialist pasts — lest we are forced to repeat them.

It's not about the monetary amount Britain should pay in reparations, says Tharoor, "but the principle of atonement." And judging by the success of his speech, it seems this a sentiment shared by many people — in India and elsewhere.

The world is full of shameful histories, but the people in power are the only ones served by not talking about it. Even if Tharoor's speech doesn't lead to any direct reparations (which, unfortunately, is the likely outcome), it's a good reminder that the harmful effects of power and oppression don't just disappear over time, and that the moral fiber of the majority is still swayed toward justice.

Watch Tharoor's full speech below (the whole thing is pretty great):

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less