OUR CARIBBEAN: Race scars anniversary launch
WELL, PRIME Minister Freundel Stuart’s bold wish for Barbados as it marks the 50th year of political independence in 2016 is to become the “greatest” and “best” of nations in the world. That’s quite a wish to make with 196 independent states represented in the United Nations and as one of 14 sovereign member countries of the Caribbean Community with a population of less than 300 000.
However well meaning and honest a leader he is reputed to be, all who favour the best for this CARICOM member nation can well share the vision and hopes of Mr Stuart.
But at the same event at Independence Square where he expressed his hope for the future of Barbados – currently immersed in marking its 50th birthday anniversary on November 30 to progress from “being great to become the greatest”, there was an official video presentation by the organisers which hailed this nation as “the freest black country in the world . . . .”
Not surprisingly, given the social and political history and current demographic structure of Barbados with a significant economic influence by white Barbadians, who are nationals by birth, there came a sharp rebuke to the controversial and unnecessary description of presenting it at such an occasion as the “freest black country in the world”.
For daring to make his angry protest, the white Barbadian businessman, Ralph “Bizzy” Williams known for his bold interventions in national affairs on matters that disturb him, ran into some sharp criticisms, including with a few well known Barbadian political and cultural personalities, themselves quite aware of the demographic structure and socio-economic influences of “white” Barbadians in the governance of the country.
At the time of writing, there was still no official response for the rationale/necessity to present Barbados in the 50th year of its political freedom from Britain as “the freest black country in the world”.
Was there a prior viewing by the principal decision-makers of the video as released for public consumption? If so, it’s to be assumed that the powers that be probably concurred with the completed product for public viewing.
While businessman Williams may have overextended himself in contending that “the majority of white Bajans love Barbados more than they love life . . . ” (what of the “majority” of blacks?)
This is an emotional contention. I know of no black Barbadian who would love Barbados “less” than a white one – irrespective of race – while nurturing discontent with his/her social status and denial of opportunities.
It is also of some relevance to note here that Guyana, which like Barbados is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year (May 26, 1966), has the opportunity to avoid the kind of “race” controversy that has erupted in Barbados.
After all, while it has a proud national motto, One People One Destiny, the scars of pre-independence political warfare continue to mock the persistence of racial disunity that seems embedded across the political landscape in the absence of any new and creative initiative of significance.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.