Black Lives Matter

What does this mean for the Caribbean, and for the World?

We have all watched the news in horror – Mr. George Floyd being killed by a chauvinistic white American policeman who held his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for a number of minutes.  And many untold, un-sung, un-filmed and un-social-media-ed black Americans dying in such manner.  Why is this; what does it mean for us in the Caribbean, for the world, and what is to be done?

It is important first to understand the differences between the experiences of Black American and the Caribbean. There are similarities, but there are also key differences. 

black lives matter

1. African Americans endured seven decades (74 years) more slavery than the Caribbean. Slavery started in the USA in 1619 and lasted for almost two hundred and fifty years, ending only after the American Civil War (1861-1865). Slavery in the English-speaking Caribbean started in 1662 and was abolished in the English Caribbean in 1834 (a total of 172 years).  In fact, the continuation of slavery was a key reason for the American Civil War, as Southern political leaders resisted attempts by Northern antislavery political forces to block the expansion and continuation of slavery.  In the newer colonies such as Trinidad and Tobago, slavery was short-lived (about 50 years), picking up steam when the slave, Toussaint Louverture, led the Haitian Revolution (1791-1802), beating the French, when many French plantation owners fled to Trinidad and Tobago and New Orleans.

black american slavery

2. Black Americans are Not in the Majority. In the Caribbean, blacks make up the majority of the population.  In the USA, whites account for almost three-quarter (71%) of the population, with blacks accounting for just over 12%.  In Jamaica, by contrast, Blacks make up more than three-quarters of the population (76.3%)  and whites, just 3.2%.  In South Africa, blacks are in the majority (76.4%).

3. Free Education for All – Caribbean islands are so organised that free primary and secondary school education is equally available for all, irrespective of race, colour or creed. And for the best schools on the island, a merit system is in place. Even university education is virtually free in islands such as Trinidad and Tobago and many schools provide a free daily warm meal for children in need.  In the USA, while education is provided for free up to twelfth grade, local property taxes provide most of the funding for public schools.  Therefore, the quality of education varies according to the affluence of neighbourhoods. Not surprisingly, black neighbourhoods have access to poor education.  But, as the Caribbean demonstrates, education is one of the main equalisers.  When you grow up in the Caribbean and you go to school and you learn together in a classroom with Africans, Whites, Chinese, Indians, Mixed, Muslim, Hindu, Catholics, Presbyterians, Jehovah Witnesses, Anglicans and Methodists, one develops a very different perspective on race and religion.  You truly learn to love your neighbour as yourself.

4. Free Medical Services – In almost all Caribbean islands, Public Health Centers and Hospitals provide FREE health care for all.  Mandatory National Insurance Programmes provide compensation if one is unable to work as well as pension benefits.

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5. Market-based housing – In the USA, there is a deliberate policy to avoid blacks moving into ‘good’ neighbourhoods, for fear that the prices will fall.  In the Caribbean, there is no limit or restriction as to where anyone can live.  Income and market prices are the main determinants of where one choses to live.  Housing schemes, supported by the State, are also available for low-income households. 

6. Private Prisons – Can you imagine that private businessmen and enterprises make money based on the number of people – black people! that are put in their Jails.  Some Prisons are the domain of private enterprise in the USA.  And prisoners provide ‘free’ labour that allow the private prisons to make money.  Can you then imagine, that the more people/black people in Jail, and the longer time they spend in jails, the more money someone makes?  Is this capitalism gone too far?  Prisons are a public ‘good’ and should be one of the services that the state should provide.  The aim should be to have less prisoners, rehabilitate offenders and create a better society for everyone.  In the US, it is easier for someone who has had a prison sentence to buy a gun, than to vote.  Is that OK?

7. Guns and More Guns – One of the reasons for the huge death rate among black Americans is the law (the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights) that allows any American to carry fire arms.  This is why, whenever a black driver is pulled over by a policeman, it is the animal law that holds ‘kill or be killed’.  The USA is one of the few places in the world in which an ordinary citizen is allowed to carry arms, and it is certainly and by far the most violent, high-income country in the world.

8. White Supremacists – How Can you Sleep? How can you sleep when the rest of us die?; When a mother (and a daughter) have no chance to say ‘Goodbye’, croons Pink in Dear Mr. President.  Amidst silent sufferers there are silent beneficiaries.  People, companies, neighbourhoods, communities secretly benefit while Blacks suffer.  It is easy to ‘turn a blind eye’ when you are ‘benefitting’. 

9. Secret Beneficiaries – When you look at oppressive societies and you wonder why they are allowed to be oppressive; and continue to be oppressive for so long (70 years of Apartheid in South Africa); why is injustice being continuously committed and normal, ‘good’ people sit back and let it happen, pretending that it is none of their business and that ‘all lives matter’; you cannot help but wonder.  The answer is that, secretly, people ‘benefit’ from the oppression.  Who do you think benefitted from the annihilation of 10 million Jews in Germany over 10 years? Did the German people not see what was going on; did they not notice the Jews being bundled up and sent away; why did the majority not reach out and help?  Well, what do you think happened to the fine homes that the Jews once lived in; the jewellery that they owned that was not burnt in the gas chambers; the fine art that they possessed; and the millions that they held in Swiss and other banks, that could not be claimed. 

Someone did ‘benefit’ from these acts of hate and injustice.  So consider how white Americans benefit by keeping black Americans down – preventing black persons from moving next door to achieve higher house prices in an all-white neighbourhood; access to nice jobs, respect, higher incomes  and confidence, purely because of the colour of your skin.  Can you honestly sleep at night amidst such injustice?

10. Envy Makes the World go Wrong – there are many instances of hate; of the need to show that we are ‘better’ than others, from skin colour, to education, religion, gender, size, shape, etc.. Why do we create and live in societies where we constantly try to put another group down?  And the reason is DEEP ENVY.  Germans, deep down, envied the Jews – they were educated, wealthy and prosperous – enough reason to snuff them out.  In the USA, believe it or not, Black Americans are also deeply envied. And the real FEAR is that, in reality, they may be ‘better’ able and more capable than whites.  Just look at Mr. Floyd, the ‘Gentle Giant’, or the athletic Ahmaud Arbery, who was taking a jog in his neighbourhood and gunned down by a white father and son duo; or Walter McMillan who was wrongly convicted of killing a white woman in 1987; or the Tulsa Oklahoma Race Massacre of 1921 killing nearly 300 persons, leaving 8,000 homeless and a white mob destroying more than 35 square blocks of the district —at that time the wealthiest black community in the United States, known as “Black Wall Street” – just because former slaves were given land after the American Civil War (1865) and were prospering? 

11. It is not a zero sum game – that  the less that Blacks get/have, the more that I will have/be.  This is so not true.  The cake can be so much better by working together; by being more productive and by stopping snuffing out able-bodied men and women than can have a great contribution to society – as mothers, as fathers, as human beings, and generally, good people.

12. The Time is Now – In 2020 we cannot continue to carry on as if slavery did not happen and as if black lives do not matter.  It is high time that we reckon with our history and (also herstory, because woman also have to tell a valuable story); to understand what made us ‘great’; and to ask for forgiveness for the crimes that we continue to commit wittingly and unwittingly.  Let us take time to understand; to know and to start loving our neighbours as ourselves.

What is to be done?

It is clear that, in the USA, there is continued systematic exploitation and under-valuation of Black Americans and a consistent strangling of economic and social opportunities. This is based on a time-worn idea of the superiority of the white race, the absurdity of which was demonstrated in the third Reich.  We do not need to look far – poor health; poor education; poor housing; poor neighbourhoods; poor access to finance; poor family structure; poor circumstances; poor jobs; poor opportunities. And it is not that these have happened by chance. The treatment of Blacks in America has been systematic and systemic.  Solutions must be seen in a systematic dismantling of these unjust systems. Responding to hatred, bigotry and violence in kind will not solve the problem. You have to win their hearts and minds with your actions and deeds. Similarly, in the USA, it is key to win the hearts and minds of the white population; they have to understand that it is not a zero-sum game in which you can only win by putting others (Blacks) down; that like the Caribbean, it is possible to live in peace and harmony.

So, while there have been protests as well as pledges, it is important that an agenda for action is developed. Such could include:

  1. Make US prisons a state responsibility. Take it out of private hands.  It cannot be the case that the more blacks that are incarcerated, the more money a company makes.  The emphasis should be on prevention, reform and rehabilitation.
  2. Reform the police force. There are already many suggestions for reimagining the police including dismantling, defunding, demilitarization, measurement, training, more community policing and policing the police.
  3. De-arm the Population. Review, revise, and if possible, abolish the Second Amendment. Prevent private citizens from arming themselves
  4. Invest in public schools, affordable housing, increased homeownership, job skill development, jobs, access to capital for those who want to start small businesses, or who are running small businesses in communities. Access to better education opportunities for Black communities is one of the most important equalizers.
  5. Big Businesses Can Play an Active Role – Businesses that operate in cities that have black neighbourhoods (and from where their employees possibly come) should include Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) measures and commitments to improve those neighbourhoods, including education, health services jobs and opportunities for businesses. Employee traceability, just like product and input traceability should become the norm.  Isn’t it interesting that a great deal of emphasis is being placed on paying ‘fair’ prices for coffee overseas in developing countries and no one is concerned about the state of the Black American.  And many companies, organisations and NGOs are busy saving the birds, bees and trees, as if Black People did not matter?????  Everyone wants to feel good about themselves, but they cannot see what is in their own backwards.
  6. Learn from the Jews – Over 10 years, 10 million Jews were murdered by Hitler’s Nazi Germany, the Holocaust. The Jews have systematically told their story; they are seen as the world’s Number 1 victims of an unfair and unjust system. But for over three hundred years, three hundred million Africans were subject to slavery – murdered, raped, bucked, buggered, whipped, beaten, split up, punished, nailed, jailed, lynched, hung, violated, chained, bent, stretched, sold, tortured, – and few know their horror story; our story.  It is time that the story of Slavery is told; it is time that the money, time and energies are devoted to narrating, writing and making movies about slavery.  This can help to generate more understanding and a correct explanation of our history.  Like the Jews, successful black people should fund works on the phenomenon of slavery.  It is true that slavery is a past that one would prefer to forget, but it is important that we understand our past in order to craft our future.  And to take a page from Germany’s book, the Jewish war memorial and others are clear reminders to all Germans, everyday, of what should never be allowed to happen in the country again. 
  7. Work Together – Another lesson from the Jews is to work together, build communities and develop networks, instead of pulling your neighbour down (‘crab in barrel’ syndrome’). It is true that slavery destroyed families and separated children from their parents, but that is no excuse today.  Consider that economic progress is not just about jobs; it is about building businesses and growing entrepreneurship.  This is best done when you have an entire community behind you.  The Jews, the Indians, the  Pakistani and all of these minority groupings understand this.  The advantage that they have is that they came to America willingly; for a better life; to live the America dream, while blacks were dispossessed, enslaved for hundreds of years, lost their families and cultures. So when you criticize blacks and you tell them to ‘pull up their bootstraps’, you should first ask if they have shoes in the first place.  There is no place for arrogance and the feeling of superiority among whites, among Caribbean immigrants, or any other minority grouping in the USA.  Just be grateful that you may have a chance to live the American Dream, because the America that you so dream about has been built on the Nightmares, and continues to be a nightmare  for many Blacks.
  8. Removing Statues is a Good Start – Can you imagine how a Jewish person would feel if the statue of Hitler was idolized by Germans – Hitler the man who orchestrated the annihilation of 10 million of their race? Well, think of how every African American must feel when they pass every day and see idolized in statues the very same persons that violated their race; or how Africans must feel when they go to Belgium and one of the most brutal colonialist, King Leopold II (who had the Congo as his private garden; rape the Congo of its red rubber and cut off the hands of those who did not comply, among other atrocities) is idolized by the Belgians; or Lord Nelson who vehemently opposed the abolition of slavery in British colonies, in Trafalgar Square; or even Christopher Columbus (whose ‘discovery’ of the Americas pave the way for the annihilation of the original Indians in the West Indies.  No one would like to see and be reminded daily of their violators, far less to have them idolized, and even knighted!
  9. Do not be Ashamed of Slavery – Slavery is nothing to be ashamed about. Shame and false pride appear to be the norm in post-colonial societies. It is a strange thing, that the people who are subjugated to slavery, rape and violation are the ones who are made to feel guilty and inferior and ‘less than’.  It is the violated ones have to live in shame and the belief that they are inferior and ‘less than’ while the while the perpetrators run free and are even celebrated.  It is akin to a child being molested and, in addition to the pain of the violation, must also bear the blame for being molested. Something is just not right here.
  10. Stop Worshiping White – In addition to being violated and treated as less than human beings, Blacks everywhere have the additional burden of being Black. We were taught from early on to worship white, because everything ‘good’ was white d everything bad was black.  Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Angels are white.  Even Tarzan and the Barbie Doll were white!  We were even weaned on white foods – white flour, white bread, salt, sugar – all of which create the pre-existing conditions of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure that now reduce the likelihood of surviving corona.   Still, everything bad is considered Black.  Black is associated with everything negative – negro, dark ages, blackmail, blacklist, black market, black death, darkness, evil, the devil, etc.   So much so, that over 400 years of slavery and colonialism, people have come to believe that something is wrong with being Black and that we are inherently inferior.  It will take some doing to alleviate this systematic brainwashing. 

11. Black is Beautiful – Black is Beautiful –  To truly succeed in life and embrace our unique identity and cultural heritage, it is important that we learn to understand and truly believe that black IS beautiful. To do this you need to:

BBelieve in yourself

LLove who you are

AAspire and Achieve

C – Be Creative

K – Get Knowledge – It will set you free

 

12. Beyond Donations – While it is important to support the cause and provide aid as Facebook has done with its US$10 million donation, it is even more sustainable and responsible to promote business, entrepreneurship and trade. Here are some examples:

  • Black Lives Matter should be one of the elective charities on Amazon;
  • Just like ‘fair trade’ and other industry standards, a mark should be developed to identify companies that promote justice for Blacks. Let customers decide with the right information!
  • Create algorithms in Facebook, Google, Amazon to ensure that micro, medium and small Black enterprises get preference; and special promotions;
  • Use complementary social media ads to showcase black talent, promote art, entertainment and the creativity of Black artists. Consider that although Blacks represent a small percentage of the US population, they are over-represented in jails, in corona deaths, in murders and also on SOCIAL MEDIA – both as users and content suppliers (do the numbers).
  • Promote works of art and media on all aspects of Slavery – grow awareness. Fund Movies and other edutainment options.
  • Support black academics, artists, movie-makers and other creatives.

 

What does this mean for the Caribbean?

For people who have been born in the Caribbean, it is truly a privilege.  To live in a free and democratic society, where education and health are free; where the environment is pristine; and the air is fresh.  But we are not yet in the clear. Because we are unable to create enough jobs; our major export is people (the brain drain); islanders do not worship the ground we were born on, dreaming about America instead; we do not eat what grows in our backyard or in the sea (preferring Kentucky Fry Chicken instead and allowing the Chinese and Japanese to rape our waters and sea beds); and we do not love who we are, wishing we were whiter.

But the time is NOW.  To re-imagine the Caribbean; to create amazing places to work and live; to treat the environment as if it mattered; to eat fresh and organic; to lead healthy lives; to spawn new and innovative (creative) industries that could generate the employment that people love.

What does it mean for the World?

Germany Cannot Continue to Sit on the Fence

As one of the most prosperous, progressive and pro-democratic post World War countries, that actually has dealt with its ‘black’ history, with shame, and professing to never let Hitler happen again, Germany cannot continue to sit on the fence.  Germany has to make its voice heard for justice, for peace and for democracy in the free world.  America is creating a great gap in world leadership that China is poised to fill.  But Germany, and Europe, cannot sit by and not play its role in shaping the rapidly and radically changing world.

 

And Justice for All

No one would wish, not even for their worse enemies, the fate that the Jews faced in Germany. This was a horrible and despicable crime.   At the same time, the world should not close its eyes to the similar crime that the Jewish State is meeting out on the Palestinians.  Just as Germans have secretly benefitted from the demise of the Jews, many Jews are secretly benefitting from the demise of the Palestinians.  And we, all of us, sit by and let it happen.  This is not Justice. 

 

 

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