But where has he learnt to put ‘hole’ on the end of a profane expression to deepen the insult? I feel like that must be part of the language pattern of the same people from these predominantly Africa Diaspora and African countries which so many other parts of the world find to be problems and burdens to their country.
That cultural penetration has been strong and total for centuries. Where ever Africa has established Diasporic presences, these have been historically significant in shaping the music, cuisine and literary traditions of the countries. Africa inserts itself into spaces more than Africans assimilate to a space. Perhaps this is the basis of the fear many people still have of Africans.
I have, a long time ago, resolved that I will not feed Donald Trump’s perceived narcissism by joining the world in giving him the satisfaction of discussing his utterances. In making a slight fall away from my resolution, I wish to interrogate not the utterance itself – I want to discuss the symbolism of the utterance and its implications for the Caribbean, as one of the largest regions of the African Diaspora.
Let me also state upfront that I do not think that Donald Trump’s utterance should be seen as another indication of why Hillary Clinton would have made a better president than Donald Trump. This is a schematic reading. Rather I think Donald Trump’s utterances reveal a long held position in North American politics. Presidents Clinton and Obama perhaps were the antithesis of the position and Trump has resurrected the ultra-conservative position.
North America views Haiti and the Caribbean as expensive and bothersome hinterlands which it has to manage in the most cost effective way. A part of that cost effectiveness is to ensure that migration is kept to a minimum so that Black people do not end up in America causing a drain to social services.
Hillary Clinton, even as her husband was advancing policies to rationalize immigration in America was, as the First Lady, chastising Commonwealth Caribbean countries for expecting America to have to deal with each of them individually instead of creating more functional trading and negotiating blocs. Her comments may not have been as colourful as those of Donald Trump but the sentiment was the very same. So the messenger should not be our focus. It should be the message.
Donald Trump’s characterization of Haiti, and by extension the Caribbean, should cause us to introspect. North America is not willing to continue what it perceives as shouldering the nations in the Caribbean. Some of the most eloquent orators from Barbados and the Caribbean have sought to put the historical argument for the underdevelopment of Africa and its Diaspora. Their sentiments are well articulated and borne out by the records of the Caribbean – but those that we are preaching to fall into two categories:
There are those who know the history of the Caribbean and will tell us to get over it and there are those who will never accept that history as many times as they hear it and despite of how soundly it is articulated.
If we accept these two categories of people, then we immediately understand that talk alone will not get the Caribbean any further. The region needs to change the perception of itself.
It needs to forge alternative alliances with partners who are willing to understand, accept and work to redress the historical imbalances that cause the nations of Africa and its Diaspora to be economically underdeveloped and, perhaps most importantly, the Caribbean needs to stop depending on diplomacy where militancy is needed.
More problematic than North America still viewing the Caribbean as little troublesome brothers, we still view ourselves as nations that need the protection and validation of ‘Big Brother’. We have come of age and we need to create strategic mechanisms for our own survival. Any forward strategy must be cognizant of the fact that CARICOM and regional integration are necessary and long overdue. North America does not want us. We have to devise ways to feed, clothe and sustain ourselves.
If America is pulling back from its wayward Caribbean associations, that retreat leaves us then with the space to ask ourselves what other alliances can be forged. I don’t know what are the geopolitical moves that make sense but surely these should be the questions engaging our best minds in trade policy and political relations.
I do not think that it is by accident that North Korea recently found friendly ground with South Korea. Donald Trump’s mouthings will make enemies of friends if friends perceive conflicts in fundamental loyalties. As other countries align and realign, the Caribbean must also be counted.
The final approach is by far the one that will take the most co-ordination because it is the one which we seem to fear most as Caribbeans. It is time to stop begging the world for reparations and an apology for slavery and militantly secure these rights. I must admit to being slightly disappointed with our reparations effort to this point. I thought we would have secured more in the United Nations decade for people of African descent.
I admit that we have until 2024 and some may suggest I want too much too fast, but I worry that we have set too conciliatory a tone. The only way that we can set countries of the Caribbean and Haiti free from persistent and debilitating poverty is through the return of capital which would have been taken out of these countries systematically and wrongfully over centuries.
While I say above that the Caribbean must take responsibility for itself as nations which have long come of age, I am by no means absolving America and other countries which have debts of conscience to be paid. There is a way that a country becomes perceived as wretched and miserable. That way is often dependent on a system of tyranny and unequal opportunity by a more powerful nation.