Man wears mask at George Floyd  demonstration
Man wears mask at George Floyd demonstration

"Do not remove the kinks from your hair - remove them from your brain"-Marcus Garvey.

Emancipation Day has always had extraordinary significance for the descendants of slaves in Dominica even if we generally regard the public day-off to be just another fête or stay-at-home-holiday.

But Emancipation Day 2020 has special meaning because of the Black Lives Matter events in the United States and elsewhere. Nonetheless, we hope and pray that Dominicans do not lose the core implication of Emancipation Day that we will observe, rather unadventurously, next Monday, 3rd August.

As you recall, there was a momentous incident in the United States of America, on 9 June 2020 that many people have compared , because of its far-reaching implications, to the moonwalk, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 9/11 terrorist attacks or the release from prison of Nelson Mandela.

That event was the death of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man who was killed by a white police officer during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that sparked protests across the United States and around the world. It has reignited a centuries-long conversation around racism and the horrendous ways black people are often treated especially by police. And it came amid a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting Black people.

On May 25, Floyd, who had recently lost his job as a restaurant bouncer due to coronavirus-related closures, died after being pinned down under a police officer's knee for more than eight minutes. That officer, Derek Chauvin, ignored Floyd's pleas of distress ("I can't breathe") as three other officers looked on and bystanders begged Chauvin, the White policeman, to remove his knee from Floyd's neck".

The resultant worldwide protests were led by the Black Lives Matter Movement. It reminded us that of the Dr. Marin Luther King statement: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".

But racism is not an American thing- it resides everywhere, including Dominica. And it must be eradicated everywhere.

In Britain, for example, where thousands of Dominicans and Afro-Caribbean people reside, the issue of racism lives and thrives just below the surface.

According to Samuel Etienne, in a commentary published in Aljazeera, "Racism in the UK is systemic. It is daily. It is tiring. "We see it both in the language and methods used for dealing with anybody who is labelled "other". It was evident in the Windrush scandal and the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the Brexit vote. It is evident in the education system, employment market, and the healthcare system. It is evident in England's higher BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) COVID-19 rate.

"So, the UK is in no position to look at the other side of the Atlantic with contempt. As the saying goes, "The British invented racism, the Americans perfected it."

But those of us who live in a predominantly Black country, like Dominica, have the flawed belief that racism does not exist here.

Well, just ask the Kalinago!

Apart from Dominica, racism is alive and well in most countries of the Caribbean, many commentators contend.

In "Eradicating the Racism Pandemic" published in the Jamaica Gleaner, the Reverend Ambassador Guy Hewitt writes: "In Barbados, a statue of Lord Nelson, the 'great' protector of English colonialism and oppression, particularly slavery in the Caribbean, looms over the National Heroes Square. The latter is a tribute to leaders of the antislavery, anti-colonial, and nationalist struggles".

Hewitt adds: "Furthermore, in Barbados a tiny white minority still control the vast majority of wealth in the county". In "Racism: Alive and well in Jamaica" Louis E.A. Moyston wrote than some people, beaming with pride, contend that there "is no racism in Jamaica, only classism" but racism, he contends, exists on several platforms .

"It is grounded in the colonial philosophy of education", Morrison argues.

He adds that there are some delusional people who believe that somehow "racism will go away" but that is easier said than done. It will exist for thousands of years after slavery because it has been embedded in our language, our imagery, our religion.

In "Give us the teachings of Marcus Garvey: The challenge of de-colonising our minds and our nation" Michael Barnett writes: "For many of us, a world in which the epitome of perfection and purity is represented by whiteness and, contrastingly, blackness symbolises evil, hardship and negativity have become our present normal."

"How else can we account for the recent discovery that one of the insignias previously worn by our current governor general, Sir Patrick Allen, The Order of St Michael and St George, depicts a white, angelic personality trampling a black man — his foot menacingly on the black man's neck a la the George Floyd scenario — who is supposed to represent the devil?"

He adds: "How else do we account for the preponderance of images of Jesus Christ depicted as a European all over the world when, as one of our gallant, cricketing all-time heroes, Michael Holding, in a recent TV interview with Sky Sports in England, pointed out that there is no way that Jesus could have been born in the part of the world that we commonly refer to as the Middle East and look European?"

How else, he adds, do we account for the fact that the colour black still connotes negativity and evil.

For instance, somebody is said to be blacklisted, black-balled, blackmailed, or is said to have a black heart — as in the case of the black-heart man, which is what the Rastaman used to be called in Jamaica.

So, you still maintain that there's no racism in Dominica?

So, how else do we account for the fact that our Government, made up of predominantly Black men and Black women, hand out millions, maybe billions, of dollars of untendered building contracts to Whites and Asians while Blacks and Kalinago Dominicans stand aside and wait, wallowing in self-doubt and self-contempt. How else! How else!

So sir, what sort of subliminal message is Government sending to its people? Is it that Whites and Asians are superior? And isn't that wretched racism?

If you still believe that there is no racism in Dominica, we propose that you take Marcus Garvey's suggestion: remove the kinks from your brain and not your hair.