We have had it all these past few weeks. The local ripple effect of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States of America, the triennial furore associated with the Lord Nelson statue in Bridgetown and the resurrection into public focus of a controversial CLICO symbol.
Truths often rile and continue to do so, even if met with would-be academic derision, excuses, plain ignorance or any number of buffers used to distract from reality. It has always been quite apparent that there are many countries that willingly ‘catch the flu’ every time America sneezes and Barbados too often happily reaches for Kleenex.
Racism in any form is abhorrent, injustices born out of prejudice doubly so. Of this can be no argument. But we pause to reflect on the Black Lives Matter ripple in Barbados that was ignited in the United States of America. We support unreservedly agitation where minorities find themselves treated as dregs of society and seek assertion within the context of their present realities. But one would have assumed that even before the 1937 Riots in this country that black Barbadians were making the point that their lives mattered. We believe that such argument was integral to the Independence movement that predated November 30, 1966, and has been emphasized since then, not by way of mere slogans and symbolism, but exhortations for black enfranchisement and distancing of self from mental colonial shackles.
Blacks are a minority in the United States, with a current social dynamic that despite some common ground with Barbados, is palpably different from what obtains on these shores. Does no one see the irony of a country such as ours with a population in 2020 that is 93 per cent black mooting that Black Lives Matter? Has it taken agitation in the United States for some Barbadians to jump on this bandwagon and to remember that they do matter?
The ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government spent an entire day yesterday debating the obvious in a predominantly black country. And the irony of the debate within a local context was that the 1937 Riots in Barbados was one of the major spurs that led Sir Grantley Adams to found the BLP in 1938. Why did he? Because the great man knew then that black lives mattered. Eighty-two years later a black Government is debating one of the planks of its own moorings.
But our propensity to catch America’s flu even when we can avoid infection is no surprise. Each year we celebrate the United States-originated Black History Month as though Blacks are a minority in Barbados. So for the month of February, we celebrate our history with dashikis and remembrances of our glorious past before shelving most of it by March 1. Has it dawned on anyone that every day is one for demonstration and celebration of both our Barbadian and African pride? Has it dawned on us that we are black history? The celebration of Indian History Month would be more logical in a predominantly black Barbados.
Lord Nelson’s statue has been overseeing Broad Street since 1813. Good or bad, history is history and Horatio is part of ours. The point is that slavery was abhorrent and always will be. However, historical perspective should be taken into account and the era, as well as the personages it produced, seen for what they were. Slavery was a cruel part of black and white history, but do we tear down every historical relic as though the history didn’t exist? Do we distort history for future generations by removing all vestiges of our past to the extent where our great-grandchildren do not know this history was real? Should Christians stop reading the Bible because childless Sarah gave her slave Hagar to her husband Abraham to conceive an heir?
Do we continue to use slavery as a crutch for all eternity? Jews have emerged from the Holocaust as the banking and financial power in the United States and elsewhere. But many of African ancestry seem content to be mired in the past, using history as an excuse to wallow in self-pity and their present problems, rather than use all history as the impetus for advancement and greatness.
We take pride in the area of the Garrison Savannah being designated internationally as a heritage site but yet renamed the Garrison Secondary School. We turn our noses down at names such as Princess Margaret School, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Queen Mary Road, King Edward Road, President Kennedy Drive, et al. But then we proudly take to the knee as a Governor-General taps shoulders with sword and bids us rise as Sir or Dame. We are too often a nation of conundrums. Either take Lord Nelson down or leave him and the furore forever! How many Barbadians faced with maddeningly high utility bills, food prices, mortgages, unemployment and crime, rise from their beds on mornings and their first thought is about the location of Lord Nelson? It is nought but an unnecessary distraction from graver problems.
Former CLICO boss Leroy Parris has been criminally charged and one cannot help but wonder why the 11-year limbo? Did the Royal Barbados Police Force miss something in their investigations under the previous Government that they then suddenly discovered under the current administration? The matter is sub judice and the question is thus best left unexplored.
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