UPDATED: July 6, 2011
A chap in Australia of all places linked to this story and wrote a very good piece on racism. We’ll leave this at the top for a day because his piece is worth a few minutes of your time and it will make you think…
Bishoz: Racism. I don’t get it.
BFP’s original story as published September 1, 2010…
Is Rihanna’s skin dark enough for former PM Owen Arthur? Are her features “African” enough?
Light-skinned, Indian and Chinese Barbadians cringe at the return of institutionalized racial politics. Will tourists and foreign investors get nervous too?
It’s been almost three years since Rihanna told the world that she was bullied in school for being “white”. That virulent racism that Rihanna spoke about is not only alive and well – it’s thriving in Barbados thanks in part to former Prime Minister Owen Arthur.
Last weekend former Prime Minister Owen Arthur urged Barbados citizens to embrace “racial pride” – but only if your skin is dark enough and you’re not of White, Guyanese, Indian or Chinese heritage. Speaking to a Barbados Labour Party gathering, Mr. Arthur “accused members of the governing DLP of lacking racial and national pride.” (The Nation article Arthur: No DLP national pride)
Whipping up the anti-white sentiment further, Mr. Arthur said, “There is a group of people who are not committed to economic democracy. The Barbados Labour Party was formed 72 years ago to break the stranglehold of white economic power. We are now in danger of seeing a fundamental reversal of earlier gains. We have now to fear a reversal of our standard of living. We have to stand up and be counted.”
Oh yes. The old political fallback position “Beware the whites”, and when that doesn’t work, it’s “Beware the Guyanese mango sellers*” or “Beware the Chinese rat catchers*”. In the recent past it’s been a proven winning political formula – but what damage it does to our future and our ability to progress as individuals and as a nation.
Fostering racial tension to bring in the votes and to cover-up Arthur-Mottley government failures, corruption and taxpayer rape.
Race consciousness is always just below the surface in Barbados, but considering our history, who can blame us? When the slaves were freed the plantation aristocracy didn’t surrender the land, the banks, the connections and the political control of the island’s resources. In short, the white aristocracy and lesser whites too maintained the means – and the knowledge (that’s important!) – of production and profit.
No Sir… it took a hundred more years of education, agitation, prayer, activism and then violence and riots to even start the process of allowing dark-skinned Bajans to share in the potential of their own country. After that it took World War II, the demise of the British Empire, the rise of the sugar beet in the USA and many other factors to set the stage for Bajan independence and black majority rule in 1966.
But after almost 44 years of independence and black majority governments, Mr. Arthur takes an international financial crisis and declares that those WHITES are causing “a fundamental reversal of earlier gains” and “a reversal of our standard of living.”
The world has news for Mr. Arthur… whether in China, the USA, England, Dubai, Brazil or South Africa – EVERYBODY is seeing a reversal of the standard of living. Except that Mr. Arthur already knows that. Drunk or sober, Mr. Arthur is a master of propaganda and his choice to push the race button last weekend was calculated.
Yes, Arthur’s racist rant was evil, disgusting… but it was also a calculated viable strategy for short term political gain if one doesn’t care about the damage to our country. Indeed, Mr. Arthur’s words reinforce a bondage on our people that holds them down.
But racism might return the BLP to power and thereby enrich the BLP elites, so Arthur doesn’t care.
Words produce actions and consequences
Owen Arthur’s use of racial politics reinforces racial prejudices and perspectives held by large numbers of black(ish) Bajans. (I say “black-ish” because after hundreds of years of cross-race love we’re all mongrels on this island – even the “whites”, who when they travel elsewhere are often viewed as “black”.)
If Owen Arthur was a politician in the USA or Britain and he had called for “racial pride” for the majority race – to the exclusion of minority races – his statements would have caused a scandal. Not so in Barbados.
… to be continued in The Rihanna syndrome, Part II: Bajan racism is deeper than we’d like to admit
* The terms “Beware the Guyanese mango sellers” and “Beware the Chinese rat catchers” will be explored in Part II of this article.