BY. R.D. MILLER
The unexpected call:
Soon after George Floyd, an African American 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 the broad reversal of laws and practices that many deemed socially and economically devastated local communities of color for decades.
This global reckoning on race relations and deep nationalized discriminatory business practices has seen sea 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 a racial stereotype of blacks. The domino effect has also seen other businesses once benefited from discriminatory practices dated back to the slave ships that have accepted symbolic gestures to confront its past.
However, the Caribbean tragic colonial history that has apprised many of these communities 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.
For many on these shores, the economic and social disadvantage despite few educational and economic transformations, as it sits now, me too moment in the region is an uphill battle. 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.
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 inappropriate widespread sexual advances, harassment, and rape by powerful men and action was quick. The lack of a protest does not mean that there is not one brewing internally each day, but it will take more that tweets, likes, and looking to silence messengers based on political sides.
It will need youths, the community, political alliances for fundamental support of elected leaders not to lose hope, trust and motivation because change only occurs through collaborative voices
A troubled History:
Though the Caribbean islands received this 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. Denmark, Portugal, and Sweden formerly occupied territories in the Caribbean. And since innocent people of color did not have a personal reservation, they created stringent rules and penal laws that transcend into systematic institutional racism today.
History has gently told us, between 1788 and 1838 workhouses in Jamaica, 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 experience steeper mobility subsequently carries forward even in more recent free migration elsewhere.
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 still reverberates globally today. It may give that melting pot atmosphere, but it is still segregate by class, and yes, the complexity that many darker skin people still struggle from that horrific past.
An delicate dance for equity:
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 many Caribbean islands, but a mental rehabilitation from slavery despite independence or any financial compensation will remain a psychological drain.
Furthermore, with reported million of of dollars in debt owes to foreign investors, it is almost like one is in playing in 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?
If many of today’s buildings, imported goods and services contracts, ports, and manufacturing own by foreign investors who will sit at 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?
Me-too 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 violent crimes, and reported corruption or political alliance that only create stalemate.
This reconciliation if coming to reality for equity will not base any on skin color; or economic widespread needs. It may be the people brought carve out how much pie one can keep maintaining their social class and advantage status. Sadly, many wealthy islanders who have got an academic opportunity and can now pay their way into that upper crowd where a good deal of bourgeoisie conscious colonial mentality still poverty minimizing poverty and other structural impediments because their necks economically could stay above water and considered a success..
Though these islands remain a place to forget your overdue bills and any other issues temporarily; where the smile remains broad, point of origin from the slave ships never in question, social disadvantage remain difficult to detect with the naked eye like bigotry seen elsewhere because many bear a resemblance to you. Conveniently some will yield power to maintain their status and as one diplomat noted, many are more foreign minded that the foreigner. As a result, this mentality will stymie any me-too moment for equality.
The region’s shorelines forever roar with a dark cloud after Europeans decided they wanted to establish their economy and Africa was the place they went and eagerly snatched people of color, filled several ships without reservation
If the Caribbean me-too solution is “reparation” or a unilateral economic package for better schools, education, adequate healthcare, better salary for public servants, infrastructure, and new manufacturing will be an excellent approach. However, openly talking about reparations for the descendants of enslaved men and women, remains open debate on ideological grounds like the ocean as to where, who, when any economic wave will reach its shores.
A notable example: since COVID-19 pandemic washed on to these shores, it exposed the already poor healthcare system, ever-widen gap between the haves vs the have-nots, access to decent healthcare and the major disparities. But if local reports still highlighting 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; me-too generates more questions how to manage any potential reparation.
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 many lives.
This pandemic has affected tourism one of the major economic and significant industries in the several Caribbean islands. Today, despite measures balancing the economics and safety, It further shows a lack of collaboration as these island stances regarding which one has a firmer grip on the pandemic for the next terrorist dollar.
It seems rather that working with each other; it became apparent that it will come down to leaders who tell the truth on the number of infected individuals, fatality, and the exact cause of death, rather than who, delivered it there.The internal political struggle goes on, I believe, showing the independence of colonial doctrine by some. But today, the debt is higher and economic output is low.
Another obstacle for me too from 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 free) to travel between islands, but some continue to see other islands as you over there, and if some could erect a wall, they would.
Though slavery is no longer on paper, how does one support the casting of a new fishing net to have a [me-too] balance dance, when you have a judiciary system with holes in basic democracy and cultural tolerance for all? One must step back and rigorously test that, “Out of Many One People.” and any other motto after colonial rule.
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 Rastafarianism typically remains a social outcast based on an old colonial ideal, and this culture should only be practiced behind closed doors
Undoubtedly, the Caribbean continues searching for its soul, and if one’s hair was no longer acceptable in the local school, what next, Rasta only 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.
Recently a British insignia, a medal 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 carry similar weight on its 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 represent just a thought.