Is there a me-too moment for racial economic equity and justice in the Caribbean?

BY.R.D. MILLER

The unexpected call: Soon after George Floyd, an African American was killed during an encounter with members of the Minneapolis, Minnesota, police department; a global social consciousness emerged with immense demonstration some of which turned violent calling for broad reversal of laws and practices that many deemed socially and economically devastated local communities of color for decades.

Protesters gather Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Minneapolis

This global reckoning on race relations and deep nationalized discriminatory business practices have seen sea changes despite previous resistance. Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s Rice and Mrs Butterworth brand decided to change its logo from 130 years that many argued were a racial stereotype of blacks. The domino effect has also seen other businesses once benefited from discriminatory practices dated back to the slave ships have accepted symbolic gestures to confront its past.

A troubled History: Though the Caribbean islands received its hints from the international media and struck courage, it was a step in the precise direction. However, it is more complex than good feeling to eradicate 400-years of the colonial chain, laws and mental debris for equity that has been hitting these disadvantaged communities like a destructive hurricane recklessly causing administrative, economic, and social barriers to upward mobility.

Based on historians; the Caribbean islands fell under the ruling of a European nation; British, Dutch, and French. Additionally, Denmark, Portugal, and Sweden formerly occupied territories in the Caribbean.

An intricate dance for equity: The Caribbean tragic colonial history that has apprised us today, 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 resignation of local managers who typically operate businesses in the region once benefited from these ships with tweets, high anger, and low action.

Economic and social transformation and as it sits now, me too moment is an uphill to climb for the region. Sadly, some leaders cannot even decide if or where to hold a protest, whom, what structure to move to steer this vessel for critical change.

Me-too is not 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, reduction in violent crimes or political alliance. Simply put, any reconciliation is not going to be based on skin color, it is how much pie one can keep for his social class.

Furthermore, if many of today’s buildings, contracts, ports, and manufacturing have long been sold to foreign investors, which will sit at the table me-too may not represent the downtrodden.

Though these islands remain a place to forget your overdue bills and any other issues merely temporarily, the reality is that; some share the identical point of origin, bear a resemblance to you, but until now have the bourgeoisie conscious colonial mentality. And conveniently will yield power, overlook poverty once able to slightly move their necks economically, and considered a success.

Essentially, several wealthy islanders who have obtained an academic opportunity can now pay their way into that upper crowd will feast, dance, have business dealings still struggles to address an institutionalized class and racial system.

Subsequently, where does the Caribbean start for social and economic justice for Afro-Caribbean and ethnic minorities? The lack of a protest does not mean that there is not one brewing internal each day.

The region’s shorelines forever roar with a dark cloud after Europeans decided that they wanted to establish their economy and Africa was the place they went and eagerly snatched people of colour, filled several ships without reservation.

And since innocent people of color did not have a personal reservation, stringent rules and penal laws were created that transcends into systematic institutional racism today.

Today’s global racial equity call is not like recent women’s me-too when they came forward and spoke up about their experience of improper and inappropriate widespread sexual advances, harassment, and rape by powerful men and action was quick.

Colonial occupation has established a legacy where only a new economic reconciliation path for all will establish the first step. Some argued perhaps eliminating several debts for may Caribbean islands, but a mental rehabilitation from slavery despite independence remains a drain.

The re-balancing question: The debt burden undoubtedly remains a national debate to develop a new economic road map, but can they all afford to protest earnestly for fundamental change; and how do you bite off the nervous hands that are merely sustaining you?

If the Caribbean me too solution is “possible reparation” or a unilateral economic package for better schools, education, adequate healthcare, infrastructure, and new manufacturing is an excellent approach.

But if local reports still highlighting ongoing corruption even mismanagement of COVID-19 funds, where not everyone can agree on if it is going to rain, or less corrupted in leading these islands; generates more questions on how to manage any potential reparation. I scarcely believe that this delicate topic will amount a self-governing gesture on paper like the independence doctrine.

And how does one support the casting of a new fishing net, when you have a judiciary system with holes on basic democracy and cultural tolerance for all? One must step back and rigorously evaluate that, “Out of Many One People.”

Recently the Jamaican Supreme Court ruled that 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 Rastafarianism, typically remains a social outcast based old colonial ideal, and this culture should only be practiced behind closed doors.

Bob Marley: From R.D. Library

Soul searching waves: Undoubtedly, the Caribbean continues to anxiously search for its soul, and if one’s hair was no longer acceptable in the local school, what next, Rasta only bathroom, bus, 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.

The ruling describes a considerably complex broader story emerged recently of British insignia, a medal that is worn by the heads of state, the governor-general of Jamaica that depicted a Caucasian person on the neck of a black person. Though dehumanizing, how do you draw a balance if laws carries similar weight on its people.

History has gently told us, between 1788 and 1838 workhouses in Jamaica the most significant British West Indian colony was marginalized in conditions encountered by most of its population that impacted local industries, like finance and manufacturing.

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 “colour bar” that has severely constrained its unique culture and economic growth, but it still reverberates today globally.

Today, many dark-skinned experience steeper mobility, subsequently carries forward even in more recent free migration elsewhere.

The lasting impact: Slavery divided the region on different plantations that established a protectionist and competitive system subconsciously or not. Today, islanders (are) not from (the) sugar canes and coffee fields (and free) to travel between islands, but by all accounts, some continue to traditionally see other islands as you over there, and if some could erect a wall they would.

A notable example: since COVID-19 and its impact on sustainable tourism, it only exposes the Caribbean lack of collaboration as these island stances regarding which one has a firmer grip on the pandemic for the next terrorist dollar. Quite frankly, in my humble option, it will come down to who tells the truth on the number infected, fatality and actual cause, rather than who, essentially delivered it there.

Most importantly; an economic and collaborative me-too even for 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 save numerous lives.

And if the arid region conveniently overlooks this pivotal moment for upward mobility and though I maybe sometimes critical of violent crime and local leadership, I am genuinely terrified they all are naturally wearing the official insignia, and me-too represent just a thought.

The Order of St. Michael and St. George

The color of governance in Jamaica: Choosing between a rock and a hard place`

BY R.D. MILLER

On September 3, 2020, the island of about three million people will decide to replace the locks or give back the keys and what party color they will hang for at least four more years as voters contemplate countless economic issues.

The election bag:

Economic pressure, unanswered promises, growing or shrinking economy, high or low unemployment, climate change, economic mobility, stagnation, who is less or more corrupted- high, low crime, how many murdered under what party, prosperity, poverty, a widening gap between the have vs. have-nots, high or reduced taxes.

Additionally, COVID-19 Pandemic, accountability of funds, old-new manifesto, but who is accurately counting depending on one’s political side. They will perceive these issues through the political glass, either half-full or empty.

Because of concern amid COVID-19, many voters and party officials questioned the timing, but prime minister Andrew Holness of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) seized the moment observing favorable poll numbers called for an election hoping for another 4 years to extend and tackle the socio-economic and crime dents that has been inside these communities’ neglected paint shop for many years.

An earlier Nationwide radio poll noted that about 64% believe that the Holness administration is corrupted, but maybe better to manage corruption. This report is suggestive is that. it is better to have these foxes guard the hen-house. This election continues to be about had they, should have, could have, maybe, and perhaps, and the past.

Once the whistle of the election rang, the two leaders, the players immediately activated on a non-stop color media bliss taunting the progress or lack thereof. COVID-19 social distancing as it seems relegated to the back burner of a nation-wide political campaign.

Unfortunately, no matter the circumstances, justification, rationalization, or excuses, bad things invariably follow if the life of a country is put at risk for personal gain.

This election debates for changing the economic tires, refueling these communities, repairing broken parts to get one of these two drivers the winning flag may simply come down to what side telling the truth or to a greater degree better at covering up the truth as the island battle for its soul consistency looking good governance.

Jamaica’s local politics typically operate like a contact sport where only the fittest survive. After the political colorful game is over, the economic strain will continue with injured community players sidelined from lost jobs to navigating students who may face distance learning in rural areas without resources.

Maybe same cars; different colors?

Peoples National Party (PNP)
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)

Whether Dr. Peter Phillips, the opposition leader of the (People National Party (PNP) agrees with the election call. It is a delicate balance asking locals who have been neglected to purchase another ticket regarding their economic future. Both vessels with an upgraded soundtrack arguing better days are ahead while accusing the other are in the same murky water.

Any party loses is more than likely, that leadership will take the entire crew into an iceberg. The tribal toxicity in these campaigns leaves little room for compromise, even if the messenger on the other side has a good plan.

The leader that will emerge, rebuilding will continue to be a challenge. COVID-19, economic stagnation, crime, poverty, and yes, COVID-19 Blame Game Is Going to Get Uglier as this pandemic in an election will ruthlessly be exploited at the cost of people’s lives.

Chinese coronavirus 2019-nCov under the microscope. 3d illustration

The pandemic also provides a cushion to deflect the direct economic decline that has seen several local businesses closed, massive layoff as the service industry took a direct hit from reduced vacations, which is a vital portion of the island’s GDP. But in all fairness, it has caused a global shutdown of the global economies, but it also exposed how fragile these shores were.

Today, likely voters are stuck between a rock and a complex place. It may be from COVID-19 fear, easy access to polling stations for seniors, or from abandoned hope and trust may stay home. Jamaica will rise and can do better, but whose less tainted, or carries a permanent stain to continue navigating these ostentatious waters, roads, and hills.

 However, this fight should be about the nation’s future, environmental issues, actual trade deficit, balance sheet, investments, especially for the youths, and other key economic indicators for Jamaica’s real economic stability that will benefit all.

Will everybody love and benefit from the finished piece?

Bob Marley

The reality is as it seems; one side blemished, other imperfect while the downtrodden constantly being squeezed from decades of promises, distrust, and inadequate management, lack of up upward mobility as many argued that only political leaders seem to be the exclusive ones getting ahead.

An incumbent has an upper hand, and people may stick to the putrefaction because weeding through political tribalism is difficult and where governmental power is seldom based on real accomplishments, but personal time served in a cabinet and popularity, resources to paint a better picture than the reality.

This showdown may not come down to who won the debates; or command of what the nation’s needs are. The sole question communities should be asking during this political showdown, are they better off today, or foresee a future for the next generation. However, this election may come down to one issue, “safety,” which is a public health problem.

What is certain, the party that wins, will need to have a majority because there is no room for compromise even if the messenger on the other side may have a good message. Furthermore, it is more than likely, the loosing leader will take his ship into an ice-berg with down the ballot candidates?

The missing color:

It seems, “Out of Many One People” get cast aside when voters are whipped into a desperate frenzy, pitting communities against each other for temporary feel-good while the youths, downtrodden, teachers, law enforcement, public safety victims of crime, small businesses, and a vanished more educated middle class inside the body shop hoping someone fixes their dents from years of neglect and bumps.

After all colorful battles, these political parties should operate like primary colors where leaders can combine both sides to produce an excellent portrait. Continuous political fighting only makes it difficult to govern and paint a picture for a more promising future.

Jamaica’s prosperity is not the best beat on the street though it has its cultural significance; it is a single unemployed mother, dad, sons, daughters, cousins, grandparents, uncle on the hill debating if they should dance because after the music stops, what next?

“The rhythms being played may change, but on same vinyl, one argued.

Many argue that politics there, and in other poverty-stricken and developing countries, is like some aspects of the Chinese investments. They come to extract the minerals, and other natural resources and return cheap goods. However, what will change, not much.

Often only the rich, well-connected, and the politicians will continue to get ahead. Many will claim patriotism from their gated community, and continue to influence the political system to protect their profit margin.

Voting should be for the future, and not for temporary jobs or an overnight financial handout. In the long run, what about tuition, school supplies for your child’s education because you can’t announce an election to be compensated.

In this early stage, the island has made some strides in maintaining the pandemic, but leaders must be honest with itself and open a genuine debate from managing COVID-19, Tests, Treatment, and Trace (TTT) that will be critical from the reported uptick.

Hoping for a new blend: 

One glowing new color based on local reports, more than a few women have entered this election on both sides, and whoever is successful must demand a seat at the prime minister’s decision table.

Few Pictures from 2020 campaigns: Photo Credit JLP & PNP.

Women are under-represented, not only in Jamaica, but several other poor and developing countries across key positions to make critical changes from elected offices, civil services, private sector, or academia, scholars have noticed.

This political election will not severely lessen COVID-19 the next day, reduce crime; create affordable education, violence against women, better medical care, lower unemployment, increase bed space, or new necessary equipment to safeguard lives.

I hope after these colorful events, all people can find a combination of colors to renovate the nation as the region continues navigating the rough tides. It will take more than party devotion for this beautiful island to see hope over fear, fact over fiction.

Jamaica is not perfect and remains a vibrant place with hope and possibilities, but people must seek change from the bottom up and not the other way around. Regardless of what color wins, the nation must deal with several ignored rusts that yarns for a new upward mobility pain for sustainable development; transforming the nation.

An election is like art; it should create wonderful memories. As this shore tries to pick an image for brighter days between this rock and a hard place regardless of who has the next paintbrush, they must stay hopeful until everyone can genuinely enjoy these recycled portraits, add their color for both the country and personal prosperity.