Many Barbadians don’t want to admit it, but we really can’t deny it – racism is still around, sometimes by design and sometimes by choice.
That it remains a festering sore in this our 50th year of Independence is a blemish on the track record of this island which is known to punch above its weight.
Sadly, for the most part, racism remains the proverbial elephant in the room, until occasions arise for Barbadians needlessly to line up behind skin colour to spew what should be dismissed as nothing less than garbage.
And it’s no wonder, for there’s enough evidence these days that we don’t know how to dispose of our garbage properly. But I digress!
Last Saturday’s crowning of Barbadian Shannon Harris, 21, as this country’s representative for the prestigious Miss Universe pageant set for the Philippines in January 2017, was one such moment.
Before the fair lass was given a chance to bask in her moment in time, some among us took to social media with a load of baloney.
Some said “I want to see an island girl”, others questioned “whether she was born here” and most bamboozling for sure was “this is not what a Barbadian looks like”.
Pray tell me, can anyone define what exactly a Barbadian looks like? Are born and bred Bajans short, plump, tall, skinny, muscular, black, white, or blue like the flag?
And while we are pondering what a “true Barbadian” looks like – is the Mighty Gabby more Bajan than Emile Straker? Is Akela Jones more Bajan than Chelsea Tuach? Is Mohammed Nassar more Bajan than Ralph ‘Bizzy’ Williams? Is Rihanna really Bajan?
Barbadians cannot be determined by their skin colour, class or creed. Certainly, in the 21st century, a Barbadian should be defined by the noble virtues of charity, friendliness, hard work, ambition, integrity, intelligence and we could go on and on.
National Director of the Miss Universe pageant Brian Greene who dismissed the comments as simply “absurd”, perhaps delivered the most fitting response for the critics.
“Shannon was born and bred here; she was educated at Harrison College. Shannon is 100 per cent Bajan and has every right to be wearing the crown. We opened the pageant to all shapes, sizes [and] colours. As long as you are Barbadian you enter…” he said.
Case closed. But is it really?
What this much ado about nothing teaches us is that 17 years after the National Reconciliation Commission was appointed we are far from settling this contentious issue.
It is hard to deny that this taboo issue permeates our society in ways we don’t even realize. We comfortably move around in our own circles. More often than not, those we invite into our lives and home often look like we do. If our social worlds were more integrated, perhaps we would not have senseless discussions about whether our first Miss Universe in nine years should represent Barbados because of her skin colour.
Clearly we need to raise the conversation. And the fact is, change starts with every single Barbadian – black or white, brown or red-skinned. We have all seen the bitter ravages of racism in the United States, where the Black Lives Matter campaign rages on and innocent people, because of their colour, are hurt daily.
We can never allow this war on our shores. Under the ultramarine, gold and black flag we must all stand as one. There is more that unites us than divides us. So with all the pride for which Barbadians are known, we support Shannon on the road to the Philippines and nothing would thrill us more than if this beautiful, true Bajan cops the prestigious prize.