Reparations Part II: A Lecture by Prof. Hilary Beckles

[easy-media med="3125"]The lecture is not short. Watch it at your own leisure. You may well not agree with it, all of it or some of it or a little of it. But if you have anything at all to say about the question of reparations, you will have no ground on which to stand unless you engage with the ideas he puts forth.Here is a taste:

When the world sits down, the western world, the European world, when they sit down to discuss the Caribbean, Africa, when they look at their past and the enslavement of our peoples, the victimization of our peoples, the destruction of Africans' potential, and the consequences that followed slavery, the apartheid that was put in place in the Caribbean after slavery, they speak about [the idea that] the time has come to move on.And they discuss moving on in the context of certain key words. These are the words that they use: Let's be progressive. Let's move on. Let's have progress. Let's have equity. Let's have democracy, equality, time for healing, time for atonement. We must have redemption, and forgiveness. The time has come for reconciliation ... Justice.These are the key words [around which] the conversation takes place about the legacies of slavery. But if you look at these words very carefully—and these are all very important words because these are the key words in western civilizations that speak to human progress—but there's a word that is missing from there. There is a word that is missing from the dialogue. And that word is what we call the elephant in the room. There's an elephant in the room. There's a word that nobody wants to say in the western world. There's a word that they do not want to use. But without that word, all of the precious words of hollow. Without that word, the justice, the forgiveness, the atonement, the equality, the progress, the reconciliation—without that word all of those other words are hollow. And that word of course is reparations.

I thought I was liberal and open minded about race … until I realised what was going on in my New York building | Chloe Angyal | Comment is free |

The additional suspicion with which my black guests are treated is not a form of obvious violence. Compared to the actions of the Klan, being asked to wait a few minutes in the lobby is, some will point out, not a big deal. But these are microaggressions, small and common instances of discrimination, and "their slow accumulation over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience… social others are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly." The violence this time is psychic.via I thought I was liberal and open minded about race … until I realised what was going on in my New York building | Chloe Angyal | Comment is free |

Worth the read.

Larry Smith on The Alternate Reality of Bahamian Squatter Settlements

This is an issue that needs research, reflection, and discussion, not knee-jerking. Larry Smith starts the ball rolling at Bahama Pundit.

... the deeper we delve into the so-called 'Haitian problem', the more we come face to face with ourselves. The squatter settlements that give rise to so much public angst are a clear example of the alternate reality that many Bahamians live in, and we are not the only ones grappling with these issues....The reality is that squatters include indigenous Bahamians, Haitian-Bahamians, immigrants with work permits and illegal immigrants. But these one-dimensional labels merely mask the complexity of the problem, as the following three examples illustrate.A 2003 news report on squatters focused on a young man who, although born here, was not a Bahamian because his parents are Haitians. He had never been to Haiti, and though he had applied three times for Bahamian citizenship and spent about $4,500 on paperwork and lawyers, he had nothing to show for his efforts.A friend of mine knows of a "true-blood Bahamian" who works as a messenger and had a daughter with a Haitian woman. "The daughter was educated here and is hardworking, but has no status. She is confined to the fringes of society because her father can't be bothered to help her get regularized."Then there is the Haitian who has worked here for years and become a permanent resident. "He has several children," my friend told me. "One son is here on a work permit, a second son went to R M Bailey and appears to be a Bahamian, and a third son just arrived from Haiti and can't speak English. The second son is intelligent and well-educated, but has no status and is very angry about it."These examples put a human face on the problem, and we can multiply them many times throughout our society. The root question is, how do we deal with them? One answer is to deport immigrant children who are born and raised here. Another is to regularize them to become productive members of our society.The other key point to bear in mind is that squatting is often the only option for low-income people with no collateral or savings who subsist on temporary jobs. They can't afford the cost of land or housing, so they are forced to rely on irregular arrangements facilitated by Bahamians.Squatter settlements are the inevitable result.via The Alternate Reality of Bahamian Squatter Settlements - Bahama Pundit.

Emancipation, or What's so awful about being the way God made me?

Gilbert Morris on Blackness & The Presumptions of Ultimate Power

This is an interesting thesis, to say the least. I want to reject it outright, but I am not sure I can. I can certainly see evidence of what Morris is talking about in the case of our own turn-of-the-century leaders; there is a core lack of confidence in the ability—or is it the right?—of Bahamians to take control of our own destiny. It's something I run up against in my students again and again—as one young man told me, "white man always on top". It's a myth, sure, but it's a myth whose psychic power, especially, apparently, among men, hinders us from taking advantage of the authority that independence and nationhood confers.I had a conversation last night with someone who compared the confidence (might we call it the arrogance) of someone like Stafford Sands, the architect and mover of the Bahamian economy to this day, who pretty well invented, or refined the invention of, the successful service economy in the immediate post-war era, when the majority of nations were seeking to develop along the Euroamerican "proper" path, which meant building agriculture, developing industry, and becoming a player on the global market through exports. Thanks to Sands, The Bahamas ignored that trajectory and built up tourism and financial services, starting in the 1950s, several decades before this was acceptable on the global economic scene, and we were unable to explain the success of that model until the whole world had adopted it. Now, we find ourselves unable to imagine something equally brilliant and equally radical to maintain what we have achieved.I'm really concerned to reject Morris's argument in the case of Obama, who as a truly African-American man seemed to have a fairly rounded concept of the world and of the need for power. For me the jury may still be out here. But as a general rule, I have long felt something along the lines of what Morris writes about. It lies at the core of what I have already termed the insufficient consideration given to the meaning and structure of democracy in the Bahamian setting; it explains why our leaders are so anxious to sell the country they are supposed to be managing for future generations, and why roads that take tourists to the harbour and Paradise Island, or the selling of crown land for a temporary handful of house-slave jobs seem to be the best ideas that our leaders can offer to us.Morris's article is worth the read, believe me. It's not the most cheerful thesis to engage with, and it's certainly not wholly politically correct, but I'm not sure it is entirely wrong. My only criticism is that Morris presents it as a fait accompli rather than as a malaise that can be cured.Read it, and let me know what you think. A taste:

Blacks have never had a "concept of the world" sufficient to drive foreign policy. This has been the prerogative of the 'dominant culture'.... given the legacy of slavery, “white supremacy” and racial discrimination in the United States, when a moment [of] racial fairness or ethnic equality (say in Iraq) collides with a moment of racial tension or Machiavellian exploitation of ethnic differences that advances American policy objectives, how can a person whose very being and cultural primacy is structured to protest unfairness and inequality opt for the Machiavellian strategy?via Gyroscopia: Blacks & The Presumptions of Ultimate Power - Caribbean Basin Review.

And more importantly, consider Morris's conclusions -- which I, for one, question on certain fundamental grounds, not least of which is that leaders who are women, and therefore similarly disenfranchised, have demonstrated that they are not affected by these "rules", but which hold enough water to warrant some deep thought:

  • it is inconceivable that a Black or minority person can exercise power with an instinct of belongingness, since, nothing will have prepared him or her to deal with the interstices and immediacy of superpower politics.
  • Social protest movements ... do not prepare their beneficiaries for and they move “against the grain” of superpower imperatives, which aim at serving its power first, and principles second, if at all.
  • In the foreign policy superstructure, there are few Blacks, working on technical questions aimed at securing power for and maintaining the dominance of the United States beyond being part of the apparatus. Yet, this is the heart of American influence, and its perch from which, beyond imposing its will, it can be a force for good in the world.

via Gyroscopia: Blacks & The Presumptions of Ultimate Power - Caribbean Basin Review.

Please. Don’t Call Me White.

It's become fashionable for youngish Bahamians (people in the mid-30s range or so -- people born since Independence, that is) to call individuals whose skins are cork-brown, tawny, biscuit brown, tan, paper bag brown, teabag, beige, coconut bark, gumelemi, tamarind, mango, eggshell, café-au-lait, milky tea, carnation, condensed milk, or thereabouts "white". To be a "white" Bahamian, it seems, one has to be only slightly paler than the perceived "norm"; if your skin has sunset or sunrise tones, if your eyes are green or copper or amber or grey (or not), if your hair is curly or crimpy, or if it has a brown or gold-ish cast, or if it can get long on its own without external aids, you will be labelled "white".Well that's all very well and good, but it's not particularly accurate or helpful in the national context. Bahamian history, which is not taught in schools with any reliability or coherence, and so which the average young citizen picks up on the fly, from conversations and snippets of information only partially digested, particularly the most recent political history, is all about black and white. Race is part and parcel of our politics, our economics, and our collective psyche. But the "race" that has historical significance and the "race" that we appear to practice today are two very different animals indeed.If, for instance, young Bahamians imagine that they can take their twenty-first century notions of black and white and translate them into what they may one day read about the history of this nation, they will never fully understand their country and its rich and difficult past. If they imagine that I am a white Bahamian, or that a person with light brown skin and curly hair is a white Bahamian, or that a person with one white parent, or a person with a "white" name is a white Bahamian, they will miss the significance of Majority Rule, of Independence, of the psychic power of the Progressive Liberal Party and the origins of the great divide between FNM and PLP. They will not understand the revolutionary importance of August 19, 1992 or the magnitude of the fact that this year, National Pride seemed to be a movement that started from the street, on Facebook and all Bahamians seem pleased to identify themselves with the colours of black, aquamarine and gold at this time of year. They will not comprehend the One Bahamas experiment of the 1990s, nor will they understand that, at least on the surface, that experiment has finally succeeded in 2010. And they will not understand, fundamentally, the challenge, the strength, and the revolutionary significance that being a product of the Caribbean (which, all protestations to the contrary, we Bahamians are) can bring to this 21st century, globalized world. Their concept of "race" erases both our history and its power.Here's the reality of the situation. The Bahamas, along with Bermuda and Barbados, was one of the handful of British West Indian colonial territories to include among its population a sizeable number of settlers of European descent. We are not talking, as many younger Bahamians appear these days to believe, about of people of mixed African and European heritage who appear to be white; we are talking about European settlers of the same kind as the people who settled the Thirteen Colonies of the United States. In the "Three Bs" of the British West Indian colonies, as on the American mainland, white settlers moved to Bermuda, Barbados, and The Bahamas with a view to creating societies of their own. Change came in the end to Barbados, where sugar eventually took over as the mainstay of economic activity, and the society took on the characteristics of a full plantation society; but in The Bahamas, as in Bermuda, the plantation system never thrived.For the first 150 years of Bahamian settlement, therefore, African slaves composed a minority of the population. Young Bahamians learn about this period most fully, it would appear, in their history classes; when I grill my college students on our histories they seem only able to recall piracy and the Lucayans. It is this period of history that they are considering -- the period from the earliest European settlement, in 1647, to the wake of the American revolution in the 1780s, which proved revolutionary for the entire Caribbean basin. But it's not a period with which most of today's Bahamians will have any actual connection through descent or otherwise, as during this time the population of African-descended peoples never exceeded the population of European descent. For those of us who believe that true-true Bahamians are, or must be black, the reality of the first 150 years of Bahamian settlement may provide a subtle shock. For that period, the demographics show that in fact The Bahamas was primarily a white colony, and not a slave-holding one.Let me give you some idea. In 1670, the Eleutherian Adventurers were two-thirds European, and most of the non-white settlers were free people rather than slaves. In 1722, the population of African descent stood at 28% of the overall Bahamian total, the remaining 72% of the population being of European stock. Moreover, of the 28% of the Africans, many were free; thus the total of the enslaved population was remarkably low. By 1731, the black population had increased, thanks to the importation of slaves by Governor Phenney, to 32% of the overall population. The society and culture of The Bahamas at that time, therefore, must have resembled those of many of the Thirteen Colonies: with a sizeable European majority and a minority of people of non-white origin.In a land without major plantations, slaves were used as household servants, boat crews, skilled labourers, and manual workers on the construction of homes and the like, and large numbers were not required by the Bahamian settlers. What was most interesting about the free population, though, was that it was not all white. There were a number of black and mulatto free settlers as well, and many of them were people of social and economic substance. Several, indeed, owned their own slaves.By the 1770s, the investment of Europeans economically and culturally in the institution of slavery, and the normalizing of the idea of the right of Europeans to enslave Africans and people of other "races", had led to a shift in Bahamian demographics, so that the population was divided equally between whites and non-whites. However, this change in designation might have been the result of new laws that had been passed defining who was white and who was not as well as evidence of a real increase in the non-white population. Even at this time, the overall percentage of slaves in the population was still a minority. Many of the non-whites -- Michael Craton and Gail Saunders 1 estimate up to 20 per cent of the total population -- were free people "of colour", people of African descent who were not slaves, or free people of mixed African and European heritage.Towards the end of the century, when skin colour and origin had been transformed from aesthetic and cultural differentiators into  markers of a natural right of some people to assume dominance over others, this free coloured population were causing some confusion in the appropriate social hierarchy. Two laws were passed with particular significance to the resolving of this confusion.The first was an Act in 1756 whose purpose was to define who was a "white" Bahamian and who was a person of colour. According to this law, only those persons who were "above Three Degrees removed in a lineal descent from the Negro Ancestor" could be called white. In other words, everyone who had a single parent, grandparent or great-grandparent of African descent was classified as not white, no matter what they looked like or how much money or education they might have. Despite appearance, custom, or connection to white families (as many people of mixed descent were the cousins or "outside" family of people of white Bahamians), these free people of colour were defined by this law as second-class citizens, and prohibited from sharing in "all the Privileges and Immunities of His Majesty's White Subjects".2The second was an Act, passed in 1767 and amended in 1768, "For the governing of Negroes, Mulattoes and Indians". This Act governed not only the activities of slaves, determining what they could do and how they could be punished -- and for what -- but it also limited very specifically what "Privileges and Immunities" were available to free people of colour. Of particular interest was the fact that the punishments prescribed for slaves offering violence to white Bahamians were exactly the same for those free people who were not white. To be precise, these punishments consisted of:3

  • first offence: public whipping
  • second offence: mutilation -- the slitting of the nose, the cutting off of the ears, or the branding of the face
  • third offence: execution

The only difference between the punishments given to a slave and a free person of colour were that free coloured settlers had the right to be tried in open court, presumably with legal representation before they were sentenced (and presumably they had the right of appeal), while slaves did not have that right; slaves who were guilty of giving offence to whites were to be presented to a special tribunal of five people, two justices of the peace and three freeholders. In addition, a free person could be fined £15 instead of being whipped.4 This wasn't much consolation, though, because under the same law, the evidence and oaths of free coloured Bahamians were not considered binding or valid, thus making their ability to appear in court more of a facade than anything else. They were prohibited from gambling, selling liquor, and were restricted in what they could trade or plant. Most important, though, was the fact that they could, for certain crimes, forfeit their freedom; the punishment prescribed for any free person of colour (African, mulatto, or Amerindian) who harboured a runaway slave was slavery and deportation -- a harsher punishment than that given to whites (who would be fined) or slaves (who would be whipped).5Now although these laws were repealed in 1824 during the gradual movement of the British colonies towards freedom for all persons, their impact on the society and its definition of black and white, of coloured and non-coloured, was long-lasting. Indeed, it lasted well into the late twentieth century; even in 1967, the "majority" represented in "Majority Rule" was in fact the non-white majority, most of whom were defined as they had been defined two hundred years before by the 1756 Act -- as having a single great-grandparent, grandparent or parent who was black -- and for whom, although the laws had been changed, access to political power and equality under the government had consistently and systematically been blocked.So. To call me or any other Bahamian of partial African descent "white", then, is to deny this historical truth. Some of us who fall into this category may be in the business of denying it for ourselves; but that will not change the reality of our history, nor will it change the reality of the oppression meted out to those of us whose ancestors did not all hail from Europe for well over 350 years of Bahamian settlement. It will not change the facts on which the Independent Bahamas was founded, and it will not help to heal the wounds that linger from that difficult past.I plan to continue this discussion, going further into the subtleties and complexities of this history, but for now: Please. Don't call me white.

What White Privilege is All About: "Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black" - Tim Wise

Just a little wake-up post, to say that yes, I am indeed Back from Belfast, and that yes, I'll be writing about that after I am finished with the marking that I still have, despite working solidly at it over the past week or so. (It does help when students observe deadlines.) Got to this post via Fiona Talbot-Strong -- thanks, Fi. For your reading pleasure. Have fun.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose....In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.via Ephphatha Poetry: "Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black" - Tim Wise.

The Gaulin Wife: Making Connections

This is not the crux of Helen's post, but I chose it to inspire people to want to read the whole thing. It's crucial reading.

I have to remind myself to continue making connections, and to look for the triumphant in the stories of disaster, to look for the survivance in them, for the ways people continue to refuse to be victims. I have to remind myself, because on the screen the stories being told are told with such potent images, of the dead and the dying, of the grieving, of those who have lost, and they are almost always brown skin people. And the people with microphones in front of their faces, telling the stories, and the people behind the camera lenses, making the pictures, are almost always beige, pale skin people. Beige, pale skin people who appear magically in these places of such pain, while they themselves appear untouched, able to leave when they want to, to smile even, in the midst of it all.I have to remind myself because I am also beige, pale. And though my socialization is a complex thing – I was raised in a Caribbean country; my way of being in the world, my physical sense of relationship to others is both Africanized and Anglicized and both are rooted in my ancestral Greekness, Greeks from islands, Greeks who were peasants from villages and not aristocrats from the cities – I am still a beige person in a racially polarized society and my imagination is at stake. And what I know is our potential for human transformation depends on our ability to imagine.via The Gaulin Wife: Making Connections.

Womanish Words: Teach the Children Well

Hear, hear, Lynn.

It upsets me when I hear the little children I know and love speaking in the the racist/religious/hateful language of the local Bahamian press/the moneyed elite/the generally ignorant. There are probably more than a million orphan children struggling to get through the day today in Haiti. It is natural for children to want to help. That natural inclination in our children is at risk. It is hard to hear a child you love speaking about Haiti with no compassion, no natural wanting to help. We Bahamians who enjoy wealth and privilege (and that means anyone not in Port au Prince right now with time and ways enough to read this blog) must wake up and face the fact that we were mis-educated when it comes to Haiti, stop defending the ignorance and selfishness and get on with doing some reading, some learning, some changing and transforming, and some GIVING. Because our innocent children are watching. Teach the children well.via Womanish Words: Teach the Children Well.

The arrest of, and dropping of charges against, Henry Louis Gates

If I had been able to, if this blog were not still acting up, I'd've been on time posting this story, which caught like wildfire and spread across the web; I'd've posted it yesterday.As it is, I'm tempted to raise it in the seminars that I'm attending as part of this faculty meeting at the Aspen Institute's Wye Faculty Seminar. I'm not sure how it'll slip in, though I am sure it's relevant, as the subject is "Citizenship in the American and Global Polity". But nevertheless. Here's the story as it began:

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation's pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in. The incident raised concerns among some Harvard faculty that Gates was a victim of racial profiling.Police arrived at Gates’s Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report. Gates accused the investigating officer of being a racist and told him he had "no idea who he was messing with,'' the report said.Gates told the officer that he was being targeted because "I'm a black man in America.''

Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver’s license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours last Thursday, they said.

--Harvard professor Gates arrested at Cambridge home

And here it is as it ended, one day and a burning internet later:

(CNN) -- A prosecutor is dropping a charge against prominent Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. after Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the city's police department recommended that the matter not be pursued.Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested last week on a charge of disorderly conduct.In a joint statement, Cambridge and the police department said they made the recommendation to the Middlesex County district attorney and the district attorney's office "has agreed to enter a nolle prosequi in this matter," meaning that it will not be pursued.Gates was arrested last week on a charge of disorderly conduct after a confrontation with an officer at his home, according to a Cambridge police report.

--Charge against Harvard professor dropped

Came across this while searching for something else

And it's worth another visit, and another.



Geoffrey Philp reads a poem here, called "Red". It's about being in between.As Philp writes:

And while this poem does not adhere strictly to the form [the ghazal], it did allow me to play with the word "red," which at the start of the poem refers to a biracial person or "half-caste."


Our Heterogeneous World

... and if you don't know what that long word up there means, go look it up.I was reading Shashwati's Blog this morning.  It's been a long time since I've checked her stuff out, which doesn't mean that I don't value what she says, but rather that I really have not had the kind of time to do the kind of blogging I would like to do.  But this post resonated with me, because I think we suffer from the same malaise.  She talks about an experience she had (as an East Indian woman, in Caribbean parlance) with a Taiwanese masseur who, having heard her voice, questioned her about her colour.  As Shashwati says:

[He (the masseur)] realized my English was better than my Chinese and asked me where I was coming from. I replied, “United States of America.” He turned to a seeing woman next to him and asked her what I looked like. Specifically what the color of my skin was (I could comprehend that much despite my poor language skills), then he turned to me and said, “Are you White?” what reply was he expecting me to give? Yes that I was White, so should be treated better. But he already knew the answer, so was he testing the “truthiness” of a non-White person? I told him no, I was browner than the brownest Taiwanese, and that the US had many people of different races and colors, and America should not be equated with being White, it was a big diverse country. I was suddenly in possession of language skills that normally elude me.

By that I mean that, just like the Taiwanese she writes about, we Bahamians appear to imagine that the world is monocultural.  More specifically, we tend to associate specific nations with specific "races".  We don't question this tendency, and we imagine that it is somehow natural.  But the world is a multicultural world, and, colonial mythology aside, it is not divided into clumps of people who fit specific moulds.We should question it.  Our history has determined how we see -- the world, our nation, ourselves.  We should not accept that way of seeing without interrogation.  We need to carve out our own existence, make our own reality.  We cannot allow past oppression to stretch into, and shape, our futures.