Racism still prevalent, warns Pan-Africanists
A prominent Pan-Africanist is calling on authorities to give the same type of attention to all missing persons, regardless of colour, as was given to the effort to find missing Caucasian woman Karen Harris last weekend.
David Comissiong, founder of the Clement Payne Movement, said the effort to locate the Rowans, St George resident was “impressive and it is the type of effort that should be made whenever a person is reported missing in Barbados”.
But he argued, as did fellow Pan-Africanist Trevor Prescod, that in such a race and class driven society, such a fuss would not be made of a missing black, working-class individual.
Several agencies, civilian groups and friends of the Harris family took part in the search that ended after about 24 hours later when the married mother was found unharmed.
“We all know that that kind of effort is reserved for a person of Harris’ race and status in this country. The police authorities can talk what they like, the Barbadian people know that a black working class missing person does not receive that kind of attention and assistance. This is regrettable. I would like to say that the same concern and the same effort that was made in relation to Harris should be extended to every resident of Barbados, regardless of race or class,” Comissiong said.
“Adonijah was right when he said that there are two Barbadoses,” he added, referring to the veteran calypsonian’s Two Barbadoses.
“That clearly is a hold-over from our slavery and colonial past. But we will soon be celebrating 50 years as an independent nation and so it is high time that we no longer have a situation of two Barbadoses. We must ensure we have one Barbados in which there are equal rights for every citizen,” Comissiong added.
He added that it was regrettable that 50 years into Independence, people were still forced to make a case that “black lives should matter and do matter”.
Comissiong said the response of government agencies and the white minority should be a wake-up call to black Barbadians.
“Let it be a wake-up call and insist from here onwards that there will no longer be two sets of responses where a person is reported missing. One type of response where the person is Caucasian and of middle or upper-class status, and another response where the person is African and of working-class status,” he contended.
Meantime, Prescod said he was not surprised at the mass response of the white community to the news that Harris was missing.
He said Barbadians should have expected that, given the country’s history.
“I know how other races normally respond to their own interests. I believe that the action taken by the white people in response to the missing white woman is the way ordinary people ought to behave in general. All races ought to protect the interests of their own,” he said.
“The reality is that when it comes to the black race, nobody seems to recognize their presence here on earth. Even the Royal Barbados Police Force normally responds to what they perceive as the status quo in the country. The Force too would respond positively to the issue of the missing Caucasian woman.”
Prescod also lamented that Barbadians continued to deny the existence of residual racism in Barbados.
The former Minister of Social Transformation in a Barbados Labour Party administration insisted that there were major class and racial divisions in Barbados.
And he argued that this past weekend’s events demonstrated the need for re-education.
“It is about our consciousness and how we feel about ourselves. Do we put the same value on ourselves as we put on other people who do not look like us? You can only feel a sense of pride if you believe that you came from somewhere and that you have made a meaningful contribution over the years to world civilization,” Prescod said.
“Black people have . . . fallen victim to the teachings that they are inferior people and because of this respond to each other in a very negative manner. We need to go through a reconstruction process in our society.”
However, Prescod argued that in spite of the current heated race discussion, the matter would soon be forgotten and people would become preoccupied by other non-issues.