It is with wonderment that I observe and play a small part in the phenomena we are experiencing in terms of tectonic shifts in social relations. A single moment, actually eight minutes and 46 seconds long, sparked a flame that set America ablaze, and the world also caught fire. That moment, the last for George Perry Floyd, Jr., captured how racism literally squeezes the breath out of us. That moment is now movement.
I marvel at the courage and the astonishing brilliance of everyday people, so many of them young, and of all races, taking to the streets to affirm that . I marvel at the emerging interventions seeking a cure for the pandemic of racism, a cancer on us all. I marvel at how the world is using the movement of this moment to make some profound change, particularly in the US. I despair that this moment is not being taken advantage of in Barbados.
God, Barbados and two men really made me; but I am thankful for the many other women and men who helped shape me. The two men, the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, PC, QC, ONH, had dreams and visions of a better world that left an indelible mark on me. From Barbados, I have had the most delightful and most grotesque of experiences. I feel that the current racialized debate in Barbados is grotesque.
Of many, three comments particularly offended me. Two were on social media, one by a restauranteur who questioned the validity of the effect of slavery and the other, a regional technocrat who questioned the wisdom of independence in Barbados. The third was by the leader of the private sector, questioning the motives of ‘they’ (I presume he meant ‘dem, and me, black people and those of colour’), that wanted to organise a ‘Blackout.’ The higher the monkey climbs, the more he shows his tail.
One doesn’t need to guess their pigmentation level or political persuasion. Just as some in 1966 opposed independence, there are those who seek to further impede the social journey that we Barbadians still need to make to unpack the truth in order to reconcile with God and each other.
Although the United Kingdom paid off its reparations to the owners of us, the enslaved, in 2015; yes, that is a fact, the debt to those formerly enslaved is infinitely greater. The pain, the suffering and the oppression of the institution of slavery remains unprecedented in human barbarity.
As the first prime minister of Barbados, Father of Independence, and National Hero Errol Walton Barrow punched above his weight. He taught us that we should be “a friend of all and satellite of none,” and that we, as a people, would not “be found loitering on colonial premises after closing time.”
Barrow gave Barbadians the ability to hold their heads high and proud in this world, as a people worthy of respect. He is revered for his fathering of our nation and the Caribbean. As I said before, notwithstanding our resoluteness, the statue of Lord Nelson, the high protector of colonialism and slavery, looms over the National Heroes Square, the latter the tribute to leaders of the antislavery, anticolonial and nationalist struggles. This juxtaposition remains irreconcilable.
The Government needs to guide us through these storms of racialism and waves of resentment. They can’t be indifferent, hiding behind ‘full belly’ arguments, nor can they be led by the people in a referendum. The Government is paid and duty-bound to lead us, as our Heavenly Father leads me and many others. I pray that the Lord continues to be allowed to be our peoples’ ‘Guide.’
Guy Hewitt is a parish priest based in Southeast Florida. He remains active in social justice issues.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Barbados Today Inc.
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