Local authorities are being urged to use the ongoing protests in the United States of America as a reminder not to take the country’s marginalized communities for granted, especially amid the ongoing outbreak of the COVID-19.
Political scientists Dr Tennyson Joseph and Peter Wickham were reacting to the unfolding developments as millions of people in North America and across the globe observed #BlackoutTuesday on social media in solidarity with protesters. The action has been sparked by the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police.
Social media timelines from Barbados also supported the blackout cause with a torrent of black squares, which replaced the usually colorful platforms of Facebook and Instagram – an indication that the cries against racial, social and economic injustices are being felt here as well.
Among them were numerous influential Barbadians including Minister of Creative Economy, Culture, Youth and Sport John King, Minister of the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey, Government Senator Lisa Cummins, and Barbados’ Consul General to Toronto Sonia Marville-Carter.
Businesses also took part in the show of digital activism including Chefette Restaurants, City of Bridgetown Credit Union, RBs Chicken, and Woolworth.
Dr Joseph, a senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies sees the developments in the U.S as a manifestation of the fight against a global social structure that continues to perpetuate poverty, racism and inadequate healthcare systems, among other issues.
“We have to observe developments in the U.S because it is the most advanced capitalist country and when there are major conflagrations, contradictions and explosions in the major capitalist country within a global capitalist order, then we have to keep our eyes on possible implications for us,” Dr Joseph told Barbados TODAY.
As a result, he cautioned local and regional governments against walking away from “projects of social upliftment”.
“Since the 1980s, the dominant ideology told us that the role of the state was really to regulate the environment for capital accumulation and many of the other things that people demanded like access to healthcare, education, and equal treatment were seen as secondary. So when you have a movement and explosion that is putting those things back on the agenda, you need to pay attention. We cannot be fooled into thinking that we can just come out of this coronavirus situation and return to ‘normal’,” he added.
Peter Wickham meanwhile, spoke more directly about a Barbadian society in which issues of police brutality and marginalization continue to affect those at the lower ends of the economic scale.
“I think many people assume that because we are a black country where there is no black racial minority, that we don’t have those issues. But the fact is that we do have those issues and we have had them for many years. We seem to have dealt with them differently, but I think that this type of issue is an important demonstration of the fact that the issues are still alive and well in the world.
“We in Barbados have similar issues that we need to address because for a long time, we have had police excesses that have been impacting on people who are economically vulnerable and we assume that the issues don’t exist here, but we have had our challenges in the past. It is nothing new and we could learn a lot from the exercises.
“Ultimately, it has always been a question of economics and a lack of economic power. Persons who find themselves in these problems are often not treated well by authorities and the situation in Barbados is no different. Poor people face many of those abuses but because they don’t have the distinguishing characteristics of racial minority, we assume that those issues don’t exist,” he added.
As the crisis wears on, Dr Joseph argues that the U.S is continuing to lose ground as a global superpower and moral authority as it continues to grapple with the treatment of its minority and most vulnerable groups.
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