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Letting go our past not possible

shadiasimpson, shadiasimpson@nationnews.com

Added 14 August 2013

I read with interest Esther Phillips’ column Word View on August 11 in the Sunday Sun  and nodded my head appreciatively until I got to paragraph eight. It was at this point that I had  to draw my philosophical line as  from there a series of generalizations and obscurations that required  deeper historical analysis took over. In paragraph eight, Phillips agrees with Peter Wickham on the need  to inject a new perspective into  the traditional discourse on race. Phillips asserts: “To bring the old rancour into present day Barbadian life is counterproductive.” The question that needs to be asked is: why does this perceived rancour keep resurfacing at different points in our history? Perhaps, it would be most fitting at this point  to let Clennell Wickham, an ancestor of Peter, answer this simple question. In the last issue of the  The Herald, the newspaper he  edited for several years, his prophetic writing is as true today as it was then: An inarticulate majority, brooding over unredressed wrongs and unventilated grievances is a serious menace. Is this what Barbados wants? Is it that Black Barbadians are  still faced with “unredressed wrongs and unventilated grievances”  to the extent that this perceived rancour still pervades the society? Phillips then goes on to regurgitate a cliché that is symptomatic of a society that does not comprehend historical realities. She says: “What we need to do now is to move forward rather than hold on to a history of exploitation and oppression that we should remember mainly to ensure that it could never happen again.” What is meant by “move forward” and can any ideas be given as  to how this can be done without understanding and redressing historical imbalances? How can Barbadians of African descent  move forward without embracing what went before, yet are asked  to “remember to ensure that  it could never happen again.” This is not only mystifying but totally impossible. There is no culture or society on earth that “moves forward” without remembering and embracing their past. Things just  do not function that way, as the past  is continuously impacting on the present and will on the future. If we were to relinquish our past, then every generation would have to obliterate every relic, every building, eschew every value, every custom, every technological advance and invention and start from scratch again building a new society. Even then, letting go of the past will not  be possible, because human beings themselves are products of the past. Towards the end, Phillips disappointingly engages in overused, trite racial obfuscation by suggesting that racial categorizations of black and white are more myth than  reality in Barbados.  

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