An interesting and provocative editorial found in The BarbadosAdvocate 29.04.2016.
While Barbados does not proclaim it as poetically as Trinidad & Tobago’s national anthem does, our constitutional ethos implies that here also “every creed and race finds an equal place”. However, there are many Barbadians who, for one reason or another, will justifiably question whether this tenet obtains in practice as opposed to subsisting merely in theory.
As witness recently when there were objections to the description of Barbados as the freest black nation on earth: where the voiced disagreement, surprisingly, was not over the comparative degree of freedom enjoyed locally, but rather over the shade ascribed to the nation. It has ever been thus. Local discussions pertaining to race and colour have always been fraught with tension; a reality owed as much to the sensitive nature of the issue as to the difficulty of determining, among our blackish and whitish citizens, who fits (or should fit) precisely where.
The Ambassador to CARICOM, His Excellency Robert “Bobby” Morris may therefore inadvertently have opened a hornet’s nest with his recent call for an apology by the “descendants of white Barbadian slave owners” to the local “descendants of slaves”’; a vicarious mea culpa that, he counsels, should be accepted by the offerees.
First, Mr Morris, who we have no doubt is well meaning and conciliatory in his call, may have miscalculated the degree of miscegenation that would have occurred in a small concentrated slave society, so that neither his categorization of blackish Barbadians as the descendants of slaves, nor, indeed that of whitish Barbadians as the descendants of white Barbadian slave owners is entirely accurate even at a superficial level.
And it would not be incorrect to assert that the blackish Barbadian, more so than his or her white counterpart, tends to regards this racial mixing as a badge of pride. One expects therefore that some of these individuals would take umbrage at being categorized simply as a member of one category merely by virtue of their current outward appearance. More over, there are many Barbadians, both blackish and whitish, who appear to be frankly bored with any discussion about slavery and who consider that it is high time that we move on with the current global arrangements.
This is not to say that the whitish individuals among us might not have benefited from being thus complected, although we also consider that this phenomenon might have been owed rather to overarching societal norms that place a higher value on the degree of absence of melanin and proceed to confer commercial and social benefits accordingly.
It may be for these reasons that Mr Morris’s call has failed to attract much popular support. Indeed, one prominent local blackish businessman in a letter to the Barbados Advocate earlier this week reminded, “nobody owes us a living. It’s a brave new world…”
They may also account for the similarly lukewarm reception that has greeted the call for reparations for slavery to be paid by European nations to regional countries and their inhabitants. It has always puzzled us how the individual beneficiaries of these reparations should be identified. Will there be a requirement to trace one’s lineage back to an identifiable slave? Or will entitlement be based simply on current phenotype, disregarding the happenstance of any historical irregularity in the bloodline?
The truth is that while there may be a substantial degree of moral justification for an apology and reparations, the years since the dark night of slavery have fundamentally altered the stark racial divisions that then prevailed. To base current events on this same division seems to us unjustified.