Showing posts with label Injustice in the Caribbean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Injustice in the Caribbean. Show all posts

June 16, 2020

When The Islands in The Caribbean Look At George Floyd Protests They Know is Meant For Them Too






When The Islands of The Carribean Looks at 
George Floyd protest by the White House on May 30, 20. Photo by Geoff Livingston on Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
As Jamaican reggae pioneer Bob Marley declared in his song “So much things to say”:“Remember that when the rain fall, it don't fall on one man's housetop.”
The horrific May 25 killing of George Floyd, one of many African-Americans who have died at the hands of the police, is reverberating strongly throughout the Caribbean, a formerly colonised region still grappling with the legacy of its own history of race-based oppression.

‘This is our cause’

Quite apart from the common Caribbean saying, “When the United States sneezes, the Caribbean catches a cold”, which speaks to the mammoth influence — economic and otherwise — that the country wields over the region, many West Indians have played an active role in the black struggle in the United States, notably pan-Africanist and Jamaican national hero Marcus Garvey; Trinidadian Kwame Ture, a prominent figure in the American civil rights movement; and Malcolm X, whose mother was Grenadian, and whose parents were active in Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA).
Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, who has been at the forefront of the region's reparations campaign, released a statement which recognised this intertwined history:
This Minneapolis fight was Marcus Garvey’s fight; it was Martin’s fight; it was Malcolm’s fight; it was Marley’s fight. It’s a Caribbean fight and it’s a global fight. […]
From that horrible history when Europeans stole 15 million of our ancestors from Africa and scattered them across plantation America—the Caribbean getting the lion’s share—shattering family bonds, the future was cast in the concrete again, in which the face of George was crushed. […]
It is this culture of centuries upon which the American nation is built that continues to choke the air from black lungs. […] This is our cause.

‘Born fi dead’

All across the archipelago and throughout the diaspora, social media users were paying attention. While some wondered why Caribbean people were concerning themselves with American problems [many such comments have since been deleted], and others suggested that the US experience cannot be transposed into the complexities of the Caribbean context, many made connections between America's systemic racism and the region's.
Even as she urged fellow social media users not to police “those of us who can elevate our thinking beyond insular nationalist concerns”, Trinidad-born, UK-based attorney Margaret Rose succinctly summed up the crux of the matter:
For those who have eyes to see the issue playing out in America today is not only about police brutality and it is not only about America. It is a manifestation both literally and metaphorically of the meta-crisis we are all experiencing worldwide. It is about systemic oppression, structural violence, economic, social and physical violence perpetuated through an indifferent global economic system that operates to reward the accumulation of wealth with power. […]
Derek Chauvin’s knee was not just a white man’s knee casually crushing the breath of life out of a black man. Chauvin is an instrument of system enforcement against George Floyd who represents the poor, the powerless, and the downtrodden in society.
In that vein, the irony of Jamaicans being scandalised at Floyd's murder was not loston blogger Annie Paul. The Jamaica Constabulary Force often operates with impunityin its violence against residents of low-income communities:
I see the outrage being expressed on local social media re #GeorgeFloyd but honestly? I don’t think the way Jamaican police treat poor youth here is any better. They are socially black in the Jamaican hierarchy and ‘born fi dead’ as far as police are concerned. #Selectiveoutrage
The term “born fi dead” means “born to die”.
In the time of a global pandemic, when the possibility of death looms large, several commentators acknowledged that it is no coincidence such societal unravelling is taking place at the same time. Margaret Rose noted:
COVID-19 began the systematic dismantling… this is part of the COVID-19 domino effect.

Caribbean racism

On June 2, in solidarity with the black American plight, many Caribbean netizens changed their profile photos to a black screen for Blackout Tuesday, a collective action by the entertainment industry that was taken in protest over police brutality against people of colour.
The move came in the wake of the killings of not only Floyd, but also Ahmaud Arbery, a black jogger who was murdered by two white vigilantes, and Breonna Taylor, an unarmed black woman killed by the police in her home. The Black Lives Mattermovement later explained how the show of support was actually hurting its own efforts by hijacking the #BLM hashtag and steering traffic away from the organisation's attempts at education and dialogue.
Caribbean Twitter, meanwhile, was filled with testimonies of home-grown racism:

Racism is so prevalent in Trinidad and as a DARK SKIN AFRO TRINI WOMAN, I just want yall to know that the people that don't see it are privileged.


Racism doh exist in Trinidad but I know rel fellas who didn’t want a black gyul because they didn’t want “nappy head” chirren eh...but anyway back to y’all in the studio


View image on Twitter

In the multicultural society of Trinidad and Tobago, where the two main ethnic groups comprise people of Indian and African descent, social media users pointed outthat even the country's politics are race-based, that hatred between the two groupswas used historically as a colonialist tool of control and manipulation, and that spin-off prejudices spring from racismrooted in ignorance.
Isaac Rudder, a black Trinidadian, released an exposé about a racist WhatsApp group which he was curiously invited to join, run by Indo-Trinidadians. [Warning: The screenshots posted by Rudder contain disturbing and upsetting language.]

‘I'm not dealing with a race issue’

In Trinidad and Tobago on Blackout Tuesday, expressions of racial intolerance reached fever pitch with many commenting on the situation less from the point of view of Floyd's killing and more from the perspective of the ensuing social unrest. Facebook user Dené Voisin responded:
I find TOO MANY TRINIS […] have TOO MUCH TO SAY about ‘riots’ and ‘looting’ being uncivilized and how you don't respect it. If it wasn't for the Canboulay riots there would be no Carnival.
There would be no Labour Day without riots. There would be no Emancipation Day without riots. There would be no Independence Day if it wasn't for riots across the then British Empire.
Stop being myopic about your own history when people are fighting for their lives.
Adding fuel to the flame were the social media posts of a few business owners who felt the need to weigh in. Michael Patrick Aboud, a local businessman of Syrian descent and already a controversial figure due to his arrest on arms and drug-related offences, posted on Facebook that protesters in the United States were using Floyd's death as an excuse “to do what comes natural”. He later issued an apology saying his post was misinterpreted.
This was soon followed by other tone-deaf social media status updates, including an Instagram post — since taken down — by tea shop owner Dianne Hunt that declared “All Lives Matter”, and a Facebook post by businessman Gerald Aboud who defended Hunt's right to say what she did and admonished black people to “rise up” from their “state of mind”.
Hunt later said that she was “unaware [that] ‘All Lives Matter’ was contradictory to ‘Black Lives Matter'”, but then shifted the blame for the phrasing onto a staff member: “My waitress wrote it. It was a Black girl who wrote it.”

‘What is it going to take?’

The focus for many, however, remained on speaking their truth and finding solutions.
Sarah Chong Sing, a member of the Caribbean diaspora living in the United States, shared her experience about living as a woman of colour in Minnesota, the state in which Floyd was killed:
The one-dimensional way that POC are seen there was shocking – we were treated like criminals more times than I can remember – cops were called for us at least twice that we know of, and we were harassed by them a number of times beyond that. The only place that we felt ‘safe’ and ‘human’ was when we visited Native American reservations. Not even the Catholic Church there was able to give us that. […] All that being said, I have hope for the younger generations in Minnesota, but it will definitely take some time.
Renee Cummings, a Trinidad-born criminologist who resides in New York, asked on Facebook:
How is this going to end and who or what is going to end it? What is it going to take?
Answers ranged from “Murder convictions for all the cops present” [at George Floyd's murder] to voting out President Trump — but Caribbean people know the answer lies much deeper than that.
A good place to start would be to explore the resources that netizens have been sharing which, in Facebook user Caroline Taylor's words, “may help some people better understand, and help ease the burden of constant explanation”.
Her list includes works by playwrights Anna Deavere Smith and August Wilson, films by Ava Duvernay, and protest music by Nina Simone, all of which, she admits, “scratch the surface”.

September 9, 2019

The Caribbean is Becoming Another Shooting Range For Social Injustice




The eye of Hurricane Dorian. Image by Cayobo, CC BY 2.0.
Just like its most famous namesake — Dorian Gray, of the famous Oscar Wilde novel — Hurricane Dorian has taken on a very nasty character. As the peak of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season approaches (typically in mid-September), Dorian has rapidly intensified, wreaking havoc on the Bahamas’ Abaco Islands and slowing down dangerously over Grand Bahama to the point where the National Hurricane Center in Florida is predicting “extreme destruction”.
Several sections of Florida’s east coast have also started to feel the storm's effects, but forecasters suggest the mainland United States may be spared the worst.
“The monster is here,” said a reporter for the Bahamas’ ZNS News, which had been broadcasting live footage, calls for help and emergency numbers continuously on Facebook. A combination of extreme storm surge (high waves up to 20 feet that have breached sea walls), “king tides” and continuous rain is resulting in unprecedented flooding; winds have been roaring at up to 185 miles per hour.
Although experts are debating whether or not climate change has been contributing to an increased number of hurricanes, they agree that higher sea levels and temperatures are ramping up their intensity. This is, in large part, due to the release of high levels of greenhouse gases from environmentally destructive practices like deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels.
Chief Curator at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas in Nassau, Holly Bynoe, shared her thoughts on Facebook. Her message was that Caribbean governments and citizens need to address the reality of global heating with clear eyes and focus:
The Bahamas will lose so very much in the coming days, much more than any of us have ever imagined or undoubtedly wanted to bear witness to.
This collective trauma and loss, in time, and sooner rather than later has to be accounted for. Prime Minister [Hubert] Minnis said […] that they will now look into putting legislation in place for mandatory evacuations and that he hopes that there is no backlash from the opposition.
This is not a political or bipartisan issue; this is a human rights necessity in the face of Global Climate Collapse. The Bahamian public should not be used as leverage or pawns to further any political agenda.
Bynoe noted that — accustomed as the Bahamas are to hurricanes, Dorian is the most powerful storm ever to make landfall there:
After Matthew and Irma, there has been little by way of public discourse around innovation and charting/designing the new countries that we need to build to survive for the coming decades, and centuries ‘if’ we make it. The Bahamas is, after all vulnerable, in that it will be one of the first places to be swallowed by the seas in this Climate Collapse. The rest of the Caribbean might look at this with their volcanic/mountainous lushness and say, ‘hmm, we might have some more time,’ but this is not true. We all need to innovate, advocate and start that journey of investing now! […]
Our entire Caribbean is becoming another testing ground for climate injustice. Mix some good old politics in there, and people's lives are held in checks and balances. […]
The keywords for the coming day or two are PREPARE and SURRENDER.
The word right after is FIGHT.
Let's make sure we get this right.
In September 2017, several small islands in the eastern Caribbean, as well as Puerto Rico, withstood two strong hurricanes in quick succession: Irma and Maria. Many islands, such as the devastated island of Dominica, have still not fully recovered. Nevertheless, one Dominica-based naturalist shared a message of support on Facebook:
A tribute dance for the people of Abaco, Bahamas from Dominica as Hurricane Dorian devastates them. As hard as it is; in all things give thanks and rest assured help is on its way. […]
Many of us are surely remembering where we were and what we did on 18th September 2017 when Hurricane Maria made landfall on Dominica.
It is sad that we the Caribbean islands have to pay; facing the full effect of climate change. But regardless of the odds, we must carry-on. Let’s rally round the people of Bahamas and let us reach out in whatever way we can possible.
[…]
Each year, Caribbean islands await the beginning of the hurricane season, wondering what it will bring —  and which territories will be affected. In the past four years, five Category 5 storms have occurred, including Dorian.
While some countries are doing what they can to prepare and mitigate risk — the climate change division of Jamaica’s government, for example, will be participating in yet another regional seminar on climate resilience — the time for the Caribbean to fight the climate crisis with more determined action and greater support is, perhaps, long overdue.

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