AS I am working-class and have an aversion to virtue signalling, I understand why Mark Boyle (Letters, June 16) thinks the idea of a reparations fund is absurd. I am not being sarcastic, because his opinion is one that I shared a few months ago; that is until I watched a long documentary on Al Jazeera in which a young white man explored in-depth the condition of black communities in the United States. Before he set out on his discovery, he was sceptical of reparations. He changed his mind.

The severity of the black people’s socio-economic handicaps in the United States is not mirrored here to anything like the same degree – but significant handicaps exist, and umpteen inquiries and social programmes have not, unfortunately, made the kind of change required. After the education I received from that documentary, I read and thought about our unsolved problems with our fellow citizens whose families were enslaved.

In advancing an argument for a reparations fund, of course there is the question of “where do you stop in history?” The historical questions listed by Mr Boyle can be answered without compromising the case for such a fund.

None of us who are white, whose ancestors were enslaved, or shipped out in bondage, suffer today from the consequences of those wrongs, except for a small group in Barbados. I had an ancestor, James Sillars, miner, hung when miners were in slavery in Scotland. That has presented no handicap to me. My family was Cleared from Arran, with most driven to Canada and America. We may be angry about the Clearances, but they have not imposed obstacles in our lives, such as slavery has for black people.

What we face today, is a historical wrong, slavery, with a contemporary impact on people who are black, and on whites in whose part of society we still find racism. Slavery is as old as written history, but the Romans, for example, didn’t enslave you because of your colour, but because you had been conquered. It was the African-White slave trade, and the perception of superiority by the white side of that transaction, that joined slavery to race. That is the legacy black people have had to live and struggle with now. That is the legacy whites live with too, now.

In Britain today, the link between slavery and race has been eroded, but not broken. It isn’t in the past. It is in the here and now, and different thinking, and action is needed, because other policies have manifestly failed. Removing statues will alter nothing, except to give some satisfaction. Tangible recognition of the wrongs done, by way of a reparations fund, investment for black communities directed by them, is more likely to be a better road to respect and equality for all, the condition for a society to be rid of the cancer of race. I don’t suggest that a reparations fund on its own, however beneficial it might be in practical terms, will completely eliminate racism. But it will help along that road.

Jim Sillars, Edinburgh EH9.

MARK Boyle might also have mentioned that the Atlantic slave trade, or at least its appalling industrial scale, could not have happened without the willing participation for 300 years of the West African chiefs, kings and princes, who sold both their own people they wanted rid of and prisoners from other tribes they had abducted or beaten in battle.

Jim Sillars would have a stronger moral and practical case, closer to our 21st century, if he argued for reparations from Germany, which has paid not a pfennig for its prime responsibility in creating our modern world – by destroying Russia’s fledgling democracy in the First World War, spawning the Soviet Union in 1917 by facilitating Lenin’s return from Zurich, destabilising the Middle East with the demise of its Ottoman Empire ally, and extending the Soviet Empire and its power in the Second World war which then enabled Stalin to forge Mao’s China and Kim’s Korea.

Germany’s legacy in inflicting these ongoing disasters on us all may well outlive the Atlantic slave trade’s – if we survive.

John Birkett, St Andrews.