BY. R.D. MILLER
The unexpected call:
Shortly after George Floyd, an African American killed during an encounter with members of the Minneapolis, Minnesota, police department; a global social consciousness rose with massive protest. They called for the universal reversal of laws and systematic practices that many deemed socially and economically ruined local communities of color for decades.
The domino effect forced several businesses once benefited from slavery and the institutional discriminatory practices to confront their past. However, many argued that some gestures were not enough as it appears some banks and insurance companies across continents where slavery generated enormous wealth now setting the agenda regarding implementation of any reforms, apology or compensation.
The global reckoning on race relations and discriminatory business practices has caused some noted changes despite previous resistance. Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s Rice, and Mrs. Butterworth’s brand changed its logo from 130 years that many argued were racial stereotypes of blacks. Other companies have been taking steps to address hiring practices even more diverse advertising that featured people of color.
Will that be enough remains an open question.
Today’s global racial equity call is not like recent women’s me-too movements when several ladies came forward and spoke up about their experience of inappropriate widespread sexual advances, harassment, and rape by powerful men that have gone un-noticed for decades.
The leadership equation for racial and socioeconomic equity along these shores
Though the Caribbean islands often take a hint from the international media and struck courage. However, the Caribbean me-too for equality, and an economic package to build a better future from its dark past, is more complex.
Furthermore, with reported millions of dollars in debt owes to foreign investors, it is almost like one is in playing in a football game down 3-4 touchdowns, and two minutes before the game ends, and the opponent has the ball.
Can they all afford to protest earnestly for fundamental as for a change in the street; and how do you bite off the nervous hands that are merely sustaining you? But the lack of a massive protest along these shores, as seen elsewhere; does not mean that there is not one brewing especially among the younger generation.
Sure, it is a noble feeling to eradicate 400-years of the colonial chain, laws, and mental debris for equality and equity that has been hitting many disadvantaged communities like a destructive hurricane recklessly causing administrative, economic, and social barriers to upward mobility. This sea change will take more than tweets, likes on social media, or political position, or silence.
The Caribbean tragic colonial history cannot be eradicated with a rope, stones, or fire as seen elsewhere pulling down historic generals or former slave owners statues; or call for the official resignation of local managers who typically operate businesses in the region once benefited from these ships with tweets, anger, and photo-ups for quick sound bites.
Decades of economic and social disadvantage despite few educational and economic transformations, as it sits now, need a new blueprint to reverse not only what was on paper, but to reverse the mental anguish of colonial practices that have caused communities to be stuck at sea without an anchor.
Sadly, it is an uphill battle as some leaders cannot even decide if or where to hold a protest, whom, or policy, structure’ leaders should move or steer this reparation vessel for critical change.
Change can be difficult, but moving forward requires a holistic approach from the youths, churches, community and elected leaders, political alliances through collaborative voices. Who arranges a seat at the head table with the biggest notepad along these shores remains a challenge. Many reports have shown there are wide-spread skepticism and distrust of local elected leaders in several communities as to who will benefit from any mee-too approach
One of the challenges, not all on a similar path, but they are looking dock. Barbados, where scholars noted that colonial powers first docked in the region with the blueprint may have an alternative approach from Jamaica, Haiti still looking for an economic anchor to move several people out of poverty may have a different approach.
Another example, Trinidad and Tobago, where many Indians descendants were also enslaved on sugar, cane plantations during slavery. However, today some see themselves as a prominent part of the privileged class and may embrace a different approach to reparation. Antigua and other islands are still under colonial rule and benefiting directly from the shade of the Commonwealth structure.
A Troubled History:
Despite one mission from the Transatlantic slave trade as many philosophers have recognized, in which they transported between 10 million and 12 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th century.
Many who share the umbilical cord have a different approach, deep philosophic difference, while some rather remain silent woven in a social class system despite being descendants of slaves while others continue suffering from the lingering legacy of slavery racial inequities. As a result, it seems today, on many of these shores, they invite more discussions than policies.
Based on historians; the Caribbean islands fell under the ruling of a European nation; British, Dutch, and French. Denmark, Portugal, and Sweden also occupied territories in the Caribbean. And since innocent people of color did not have a personal reservation, they established rigid rules and penal laws that transcend into systematic institutional racial discrimination today.
History has informed us, between 1788 and 1838 workhouses in Jamaica, one of the most significant British West Indian colony marginalized its population, and that affected local industries, like finance and manufacturing to progress. Today, many dark-skinned people experience steeper mobility subsequently carries forward even in more migration elsewhere across these shores for better opportunities.
The Caribbean may have passed its hostility tone since those cultural prohibitions of black settlement in some areas to interracial sex, part of the racial discrimination known as the “color bar” that has severely constrained its unique culture and economic growth, but it until now reverberates globally today. It may give that melting pot atmosphere, but it is, however, segregated by class, and yes, the complexity that many darker skin people still struggle from that horrific past.
A delicate dance for equity:
Colonial occupation has established a legacy where only a new economical reconciliation path for all that will establish an economic foundation to left people out of poverty. Some argued, perhaps eliminating several debts, financial compensation, but I believe a mental rehabilitation from slavery has to be balanced across these coastlines to reduce decades of a psychological drain.
Many reports have shown that many of today’s buildings, imported goods, and service contracts, ports, and manufacturing own by foreign investors on the shores, which will sit at the reparation table, therefore; me-too may not represent the downtrodden. Subsequently, where does the Caribbean start for social and economic justice for Afro-Caribbean and ethnic minorities who have been marginalized for decades?
Me-too on many fronts absolutely is not about resettlement, re-distribution of land to the poor owned by elected officials, or the top one percent of the rich, removal of colonial images from a local church window, lower interest rates on predatory loans, a new police station to cut violent crimes, and reported corruption or political alliance that only create a stalemate.
The mental complexity
If the Caribbean solution is to its decades of poverty, inequality, and other barriers, “reparation” or a unilateral economic package permanently building the education system, job opportunities, adequate healthcare, better salary for public servants, modern infrastructure, or manufacturing will represent an excellent approach.
However, openly talking about reparations for the descendants of enslaved people, remain open debate on philosophical grounds like the ocean as to where, who, when any economic wave will approach its shores.
This reconciliation debate is more than a dollar value, social and economic equity, nor can it be the voice of the privileged class, but an economic widespread policy that addresses institutionalized practices that have created a wide gap between the have vs the have-nots.
Today, many wealthy islanders who have successfully attained academic opportunity, business success and can promptly compensate their way into that privileged class often still harbor the colonial bourgeoisie consciousness mentality and a strong grip maintaining stratification, them vs us. Often there is minimization in areas of poverty, crime, poor education, healthcare structural impediments as it appears these poverty-stricken community are at fault.
Conveniently some will yield their financial power to maintain their status> One former diplomat said, “many locals are more foreign minded that the foreigner.” This mentality will stymie any me-too moment for equality.
What is good from the colonial doctrine if it does not eliminate the paralyzing debt, promote manufacturing, improve schools that play a key part in economic prosperity? Many island nations have contributed to the economic power of their once colonial rules, and the economic success they enjoy today.
The hidden rough tide:
Though these islands remain a place to forget your overdue bills and any other issues temporarily; where the smile continues to be broad, linked by the slave ship. The region’s shorelines forever roar with a dark cloud after Europeans decided they wanted to establish their economy and Africa represent the place they went and eagerly snatched people of color, filled several ships without reservation.
An economic collaborative even the ability to travel to other islands for accurate diagnosis and critical medical care rather than waiting eagerly for weeks for urgent surgery or test results will safeguard many lives, and access to good and affordable healthcare represents new me-too respiration. But social disadvantage remains difficult to detect with the naked eye like bigotry seen elsewhere because many bears a resemblance to you does not make it a steady path.
A notable example: Since the COVID-19 pandemic washed onto these shores, it exposed the already poor healthcare system, the ever-widen gap between the haves vs the have-nots, access to decent healthcare, and the major disparities. And if provided local reports that highlight ongoing corruption, mismanagement of COVID-19 funds received, and a system where not everyone can agree on if it is going to rain, or what party is less corrupted in leading these islands; it generates more questions about how to manage any potential reparation or me too question..
This pandemic has affected tourism one of the vital economic and significant industries in the various Caribbean islands. Today, despite measures balancing the economics and safety, It further shows a lack of collaboration as these island stances regarding which one secures a firmer grip on the pandemic for the next terrorist dollar.
This COVID-19 pandemic may leave the shore one day. Those impacted numbers can be disguised as to which leaders telling the truth on the figure of infected individuals, fatality, and the exact cause of death or delivered it there.
What is clear, the internal political struggle goes on, and hidden division between many of these islands that should be working together more than it seems to reverse this decade of ongoing strain from the colonial slavery virus.
The enduring mental impact:
Slavery divided the region into different plantations that established a protectionist and competitive system, subconsciously or not. Today islanders are not from the sugar canes and coffee fields and are free to travel between islands, but some continue to identify others as you over there, and if some could erect a wall, they would.
Recently the Jamaican Supreme Court ruled a student could not attend classes if she didn’t cut her dreadlocks and the school did not infringe on the child’s constitutional rights. This ruling confirms that Rastafarians typically remain a social outcast based on an old colonial ideal, and this culture should only be practiced behind closed doors.
Slavery is no longer on paper, the casting of a new fishing net to have a balance dance is still delicate; especially if the judiciary system has holes in basic democracy and cultural tolerance for all? To such a degree, these communities must step back and rigorously evaluate that, “Out of Many One People,” and any other motto after colonial rule.
Undoubtedly, the Caribbean continues to search for its socio-economic soul, and if one’s hair is no longer acceptable in the local school, what next, Rasta solitary bathroom, dining area, etc. The styling of one’s culture may explain the abundance of bleaching cream being bought in the region for acceptance by many, as the colonial mentality still lingers.
It is like a recent report surrounding a British insignia, a medal worn by the heads of state, the governor-general of Jamaica that depicted an individual on the neck of a black person. Though dehumanizing, how can you achieve a balance if laws bear similar weight on their people?
And if the region conveniently overlooks this pivotal moment for upward mobility despite other systematic socioeconomic disparities, and without the right leadership, I am genuinely terrified they all are naturally wearing the official insignia, and me-too and any other push for economic prosperity represent just a thought.