“I condemn slavery with the utmost vehemence, but the fact that my remote ancestors may have been involved in it is nothing to do with me. You need a genetics lecture. Do you realise that probably only about 1 in 512 of my genes come from Henry Dawkins?’”
Richard Dawkins on his family’s connections with the slave trade.
pretty sure the “Dawkins family estate, consisting of 161 hectares in Oxfordshire …bought in part with wealth amassed through sugar plantations and slave ownership” counts as something to do with him
What does his family’s history with slavery have to do with him? You can’t hold him accountable for something someone else in his family did. Especially when he had absolutely no way of preventing it.
He and his family continue to directly benefit from the proceeds of slavery — most dramatically financially. It’s these generations of privilege that have put him in the position to get an expensive education, be financially independent of bodies that might attempt to moderate his opinions, and get that posh accent people love; it’s generations of slavery, colonialism, trauma, violence, financial exploitation, and social exclusion that are responsible for the continued worse outcomes for Black people in Britain and worldwide. To reiterate: his family’s history benefits him at the expense of others. Just because you’re not directly responsible for something that benefits you unjustly doesn’t mean you’re not obligated to try and make it right as best you can. (If you were given a stolen bike you’d return it to the person it was stolen from, right?) There are many ways that Dawkins can begin to make amends for his ancestor’s actions. He could, for example, make a financial contribution to one of the many bodies that serves and advocates for Black British people.
Dawkins’ conduct is especially risible because a) he continues to hold all religious people responsible for any and every religiously motivated atrocity going back centuries and b) has written extensively about his family while leaving out mention of their role in the slave trade, effectively concealing it. This suggests that he realises it is something to be ashamed of.
It’s also worth mentioning that many, many people feel that Dawkins and the kind of atheism he espouses are Eurocentric at best and explicitly racist at times. See for example this article by Carole McConnell, “Faith in Colour: Racism and Atheism”; this article from a UK newspaper, “Atheist Richard Dawkins blames Muslims for ‘importing creationism’ into classrooms”; these amazingly horrible quotes. He’s not exactly giving people a reason to extend a lot of good faith here.