Our Minister of Education’s declaration in the House Assembly this week, during tribute to the iconic Nelson Mandela, that for all the strides made by Madiba there was still much more work to be done cannot be faulted. Not if we surmise Mr Ronald Jones means work in South Africa.
After all, Mandela served one five-year term as president, by his own wish, which some observers have argued was insufficient time to firmly consolidate his objectives of a democratic, free, non-racist, equitable and peaceful state. The first black president of South Africa, the analysts say, should have gone for a second five-year term.
Mandela in his five years had been concentrating on dismantling the apartheid system, while at the same time constructing and sustaining reconciliation with his and his people’s former oppressors, and looking towards a South Africa which decades before he could only have dreamed of. We could forgive the great man for having his eyes fixed on the bringing of the black and white races together, sparing us the apocalyptic race war that some on both sides had wished for or believed to be unavoidable and necessary.
But arguably, his stepping down yet left much vital infrastructural and other social work to be completed; and he may have robbed his country of the kind of practical leader of which he would have been the perfect exemplar.
There clearly was a need for that appropriate personage, setting the right example for those who would follow, when you consider the naiveness of successor Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki, particularly on the issue of HIV/AIDS prevention and care, and the obviously current unpopular President Jacob Zuma, who was booed this week as he spoke at the memorial service for Mandela of all things at the FNB Stadium.
If Mr Jones imagery of work yet to be done is fixed in this context, then we have no quarrel with his position. But we fear the Member of Parliament may have stretched his words somewhat and his imagination, when he alluded to the “lot of work to be done in Barbados . . .” .
Postulated he: “Wherever people of colour exist, a lot of work still has to be done. Because it is not easy to turn the spite of the oppressor away. The seed can still germinate if there is not constant vigilance. If we don’t constantly speak, that spite would germinate.”
Surely, if there is such germination in Barbados still at this time, the goodly minister ought to have raised it before; not wait until Nelson Mandela had died to have a excuse to bring it up. And what does it say about us as a people having just celebrated the 47th year of presumed Independence? What does it say about our political leaders if they can only advise that the eradication of anything untowards in so far as “people of colour” are concerned can only be by talking –– or constantly speaking?
And to whom would be such an address. If our political leaders can espy a wrong –– or wrongs –– and they with the backing of Parliament and law can do little or nothing about such transgression, except to offer empty mouthings, what will become of us “people of colour” as Barbadians, as a society, as a state?
Has Mr Jones discovered some sinister plot by white Barbadians? Surely, this cannot be what the good minister means. To tell the truth, we would rather acknowledge that Mr Jones was overcome by grief on the passing of Nelson Madiba Mandela, and stumbling through his expression of admiration, mourning and melancholy, accidently plunged his left foot into his mouth.
We thought that we –– Black and White –– had all got past the stage where Whites thought themselves superior and Blacks believed it. We thought Barbadians had got past this “apartness” of which Mr Jones speaks. We thought the Blacks among us –– Mr Jones’ people of colour –– had already escaped the fear that had gripped Malcolm X, when he declared:
“I’ve never seen a sincere white man, not when it comes to helping black people. Usually things like this are done by white people to benefit themselves. The white man’s primary interest is not to elevate the thinking of black people, or to waken black people, or white people either. The white man is interested in the black man only to the extent that the black man is of use to him. The white man’s interest is to make money, to exploit.”
Haven’t we all got past this dolour and vexation?
The disparity between what we Barbadians hold as truth and reality and Mr Jones’ imaginations and machinations would seem to demand clear explanation –– and urgent correction.
Actually, Mr Jones may need to do some emergency study of Mandela’s philosophy on reconciliation and racial harmony. It may help give him and us some understanding of his later utterance that “we must fight for humanity, for each one having equal opportunity to come to the table”.
Whose table, Mr Jones?