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


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

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