Friday, April 8, 2011

Is Barbados an apartheid state?

By Rebecca Theodore

The surfeit of the dueling public and the storm of accusations about Barbadians’ poor treatment of visitors that are not tourists or others of European descent, continue to highlight a fundamental split in the Caribbean.

Although recent developments in the world at large mark the end of legislated apartheid, it seems that its entrenched social and economic effect operates covertly on Barbadian shores. Thus, political, social and cultural ambitions differ tremendously from the glorious morn of West Indian federation, and in its wake the very fabric of national self-determination is destroyed amidst the silence of the masses.

Rebecca Theodore was born on the north coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica and resides in Toronto, Canada. She writes on national security and political issues and can be reached at rebethd@aim.comCommon sense is no longer the given, but a corrupted oppressive factor in whose reign the seed of distorted perception finds new meaning in a glowing age of literacy.

While opponents consider the analogy of apartheid defamatory and reflecting a double standard when applied to Barbados, it cannot be denied that in light of recent discriminatory practices towards their own Caribbean brothers and sisters, apartheid is practiced both internally and externally in Barbados. It is true that Barbadians have protected themselves with an aggressive nationalism, but sadly enough in the hierarchy of rights; it is not a fair nationalism.

The many xenophobic impulses released in the name of nationalism endanger the future sovereignty of Barbados because it is not a nationalism that speaks of the rights of minorities. Moreover, if the Hegelian dialectic of synthesis lists high autonomy as one of those preconditions that create powerful common mythologies in the art of nation building, then nations are formed through the inclusion of the whole populace and not just the voices of the elites or of the ruling class.

In Barbados’s struggle to present to the rest of the Caribbean the picture of a perfect society or the Utopian dream, covert segregation among its own people prevails, denying the ordinary working class the historical legacies that they had overcome since the days of slavery to their present day liberation.

Unlike other Caribbean islands, where private interest is fiercely protected and states cater to their own people before tourism, supermarkets in Barbados only cater for tourists -- another exchange that deliberately conceals the truth that Barbadians are treated unfairly on their own shores by the white bureaucracy -- an exchange that prompted local calypsonian Gabby to reclaim Barbadian heritage for all in song and poetry. Hence, the Marxist theory that ideologies are conceived from the productive forces existing within the bowels of society holds true in Barbados.

Externally, Barbados’s treatment of Guyanese, Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals has been compared by social activists, investigators, and human rights groups as apartheid on Caribbean soil.

The Myrie affair is not only the voice that speaks for all Caribbean nationals, but also an insult to Barbadians overseas. As this matter transcends to an international human rights investigation, they will notice that with a tarnished reputation as a people strangled from within and one that discriminates against their own colour, they will in time be treated the same by immigration officials on the international scene and their tourist industry will suffer as well.

Foreign minister McClean’s illogical conclusion that “the Jamaican woman lied, since her body was never searched” and later emphasized that “Barbados is committed to the truth to ensure that justice is done” will yield that facts are the worst enemy of truth; and at the heart of the matter lies the complicated relationship of ‘conceptual fixation.’

Minister McClean must pay careful attention to the notion that the power of sentences has nothing to do with their sense or the logic of their construction because words are ambiguous and yield to ‘conceptual fixations.’ It is ‘conceptual fixations’ that still contribute to anti-Semitism, discrimination against women, intellectuals, pacifists, and homosexuals in society. It is ‘conceptual fixations’ that paved the way to the gas chambers, slavery and the civil war and ‘conceptual fixations’ may very well put a dullness on the spirit of Caribbean unity if Barbados fails to examine the problem of apartheid both within and without and the sweeping generalizations about Barbadians overseas.

Barbados needs a new dialogue with other Caribbean states to understand that apartheid is a crime. The Myrie matter questions the expertise of the Caribbean Court of Justice in determining public policy. While not ideal in other Caribbean states, the CCJ is very much alive in Barbados and has authority to set policy and make decisions about accusations of criminal behaviour. The call for the matter to be resolved without further embarrassment and that all government officials in Barbados and Jamaica need to pause and stop talking cannot be muted. The matter reflects a certitude in the ability of governments to determine the truth and in seeing that security and freedom cannot be perceived if freedom to subvert them is permitted.

Thus, at this point, words have taken over my realism but the chaotic and baroque practice of apartheid in Barbados must be examined. The consequences of this duel have great significance for the broader Barbadian society as well as for the future of Caribbean unity.

April 7, 2011