Do Black Lives Mat­ter in Our Own Back­yard?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Kayra Wil­liams

Black Lives Mat­ter. Or, to be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect, black lives also mat­ter. Even here in the Caribbean. While the rest of the world protests the end­less in­jus­tices meted out to peo­ple of color—of­ten by those in au­thor­ity—we ci­ti­zens of the Caribbean also must live with our own pe­cu­liar woes. It may not be an ev­ery­day lo­cal oc­cur­rence to be hunted down and un­justly treated for rea­sons that have ev­ery­thing to do with our skin tone, but many of us daily en­counter worse. Yes, for what can be more ter­ri­ble than to be end­lessly at war with our­selves?

The Caribbean is a pre­dom­i­nantly black re­gion. Nearly two cen­turies af­ter eman­ci­pa­tion, many is­lands of this re­gion still have not re­cov­ered com­pletely from the ef­fects of colo­nial­ism. We have moved for­ward in many as­pects, but of­ten our too tragic his­tory seems a haunt­ing pres­ence in the thoughts, ac­tions, and the way we live as a peo­ple. Although many would deny this truth, there re­mains the col­lat­eral dam­age. Our his­tory has taught us to love one an­other. And we do—some of the time. We haven’t fully learned to ac­cept our­selves as we are; that we come in dif­fer­ent shades of black. We pre­fer in­stead to talk about who are the au­then­tic sons and daugh­ters of our soil. By our ac­tions we would dic­tate who should do what about our ap­pear­ance, in­clud­ing our hair, and what it means when some of us refuse to com­ply. We talk to­geth­er­ness but walk a dif­fer­ent walk.

Let’s take a peek at our­selves in the mir­ror: Our is­land home eco­nom­i­cally de­prived but we boast a high level of crime. On June 6 we elected a new prime min­is­ter. Through­out the cam­paign that landed him in par­lia­ment, he was re­peat­edly re­ferred to as un­de­serv­ing of of­fice, one of the rea­sons be­ing he is the prod­uct of an English mother and light­skinned na­tive fa­ther. Some con­tinue to sug­gest he has no in­ter­est in Saint Lu­cians with more African char­ac­ter­is­tics. That his fa­ther has al­ways been among the na­tion’s lead­ing em­ploy­ers means noth­ing to the son’s de­trac­tors. We may have come a long way in the last 100 years but not in the area of racial re­la­tions.

Racial ten­sion con­tin­ues to hin­der the re­gion’s devel­op­ment. But, what are the other con­tribut­ing fac­tors? For most of us who grew up in the is­lands, our his­tory books showed us just the tip of the ice­berg. The slave trade orig­i­nated in places some of us, even now, never heard of, let alone vis­ited. The ver­sion of the his­tory we were taught at our pri­mary and se­condary schools de­tailed just enough pain and hard­ship to get us think­ing, but not enough to re­ally care to know more.

Most of our his­tory is still en­veloped in dark­ness; it’s time some more light were shed on in it, per­chance to help us heal. Af­ter all, for­give­ness helps the for­giver more than it does the for­given. There has been much talk over the years about repa­ra­tions. But what ex­actly do we mean by repa­ra­tions? Even on that we re­main di­vided.

So where do we go from here? Well, we cer­tainly can’t turn back the clock! There is an ur­gent need to find a real sense of har­mony in the in­ter­ac­tions of peo­ple of African de­scent and their wider com­mu­ni­ties. There is dire need for us to re­ally learn to love an­other, to con­cen­trate on the great things we share and less on the col­ors that make us whom we are. As I see it, we are like a well­tended gar­den full of flow­ers of dif­fer­ent hues. We first need to rec­og­nize the harm we do our­selves when we be­have like the su­prem­a­cists we pro­fess to de­test, who con­tinue to be a men­ace to our sis­ters and broth­ers else­where. We must mend our dam­aged selves, dam­aged, if you like by slav­ery and its fall-out. We alone can de­ter­mine whether we live use­lessly in the past or move into a rich fu­ture of our own mak­ing!

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