We must speak with one voice!
The murders, earlier this month, of two young African-American men — Philando Castile and Alton Sterling — by white American police officers, should bring home to all African-Barbadian and African-Caribbean people the critical importance of the United Nations International Decade For People of African Descent, and of our duty to make full use of this UN sanctioned international programme to come to the defence of our beleaguered African-American brothers and sisters.
These two recent US-based genocidal outrages come at a time when right-thinking people all over the world are already expressing shock and horror at the phenomenon of white American police officers callously and with regularity killing literally hundreds of African-American men, women and children every year, and the United States Criminal Justice system routinely declaring that the killers are not even required to stand trial for their wrong-doing.
Indeed, the US justice system has been sending such loud and clear messages that black, brown and native-American lives do NOT matter, that it was not surprising that an ordinary white civilian racist in Charleston, South Carolina would get it into his head to enter the sanctuary of an historic African-American church and assassinate black men, women and children who were in a posture of prayer.
But the inherent message of the United Nations International Decade For People Of African Descent – which began on 1st January 2015 – is that the African-American people of the United States of America are our black Barbadian and Caribbean kith and kin!
The nine black American men, women and children who were so brutally murdered in Charleston, as well as such recent victims as Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Mike Browne, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and so many others– far too numerous to list– are our “brothers and sisters”!
And they are our brothers and sisters because their African ancestors were brought to the Americas in the same slave ships that brought our African ancestors, and were subjected to the same architectonic socialization experiences of chattel slavery and colonialism in “Plantation America” that our ancestors were subjected to on the plantations of the Caribbean.
The only truly significant difference between ourselves and our African-American brothers and sisters is that we are blacks in a black majority society, while they are blacks in a white majority society.
This fundamental difference is responsible for the fact that we possess pre-dominantly black or Afro/Asian governments, legislators, nation states, police forces, judicial officers, diplomatic representatives, and the list goes on, while they remain a relatively powerless and under-represented minority in the racist white majority institutions of the US.
Furthermore, it has now become absolutely clear that the traditional White American establishment that orchestrated the genocide of the Native American population and the anti-black slavery and slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries has no intention– if they can help it– of ever permitting the black descendants of their former slaves (or the Native American people for that matter) to ever be truly and fully free in the USA.
Thus, the very existence of the United Nations International Decade For People of African Descent impels us as black people to come to this profound understanding of the predicament of our African-American brothers and sisters, and to the responsibilities that we must undertake as a result of that horrific predicament.
And the clearest such responsibility is that we black Barbadian and Caribbean people who are racial majorities in our national societies, and who possess predominantly black or Afro/Asian nation-states, national governments, and diplomatic seats at the United Nations and other high councils of international decision-making, are duty-bound to speak up for and to defend the rights of our African-American brothers and sisters.
We simply can no longer allow our interest in our brothers’ plight to be restricted because they are supposedly citizens of a different nation. No! We who are joined together by deeply rooted ties of ancestry, kinship and affinity, must not permit artificial national barriers to keep us apart.
The time has therefore come when the Prime Ministers, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and the various Ambassadors and consular officers of our Caribbean nations must accept that they have a duty to speak up for and defend our African-American brothers and sisters!
Just as the American State Department, secretary of state, president and vice-president believe that they possess a right to intervene in and pass judgement on our national domestic affairs, our Caribbean high officials of state must assert an even greater right to intervene in and pass judgement on the existential predicament of our African-American brothers and sisters within the national arena of the USA.
It is high time that our officials of state take meaningful initiatives to place the plight of our African-American brothers and sisters before such high level international human rights bodies as the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and indeed, before the highest democratic international policy and law making body of them all— the United Nations General Assembly.
Indeed, this was the approach advocated by the late great Malcom X when, in the 1960’s, he established his Organization of Afro-American Unity, and commenced on a campaign to “internationalize” the domestic civil rights struggle of the African-American people by having the governments of the newly independent African nations take the plight of the black American people before relevant international bodies.
It is also high time that our officials of state intervene with United States President Barack Obama and call upon him to do his duty to the African-American people of the USA!
The sad reality is that President Obama has spectacularly FAILED — during his Presidency — to address the issue of the deeply entrenched anti-black racism that exists in the bowels of American society and in the very DNA of the institutions of the USA.
Even with these most recent racist murders, President Obama has shamelessly side-stepped his duty to represent the African-American cause, and, in the case of the South Carolina massacre for example, has sought to characterize the massacre as being related to the ease of access to guns in the USA, rather than to pinpoint the fact that it was underpinned by the trenchant anti-Black racism that exists in US society.
Way back in the 1960’s, the late Lyndon B Johnson, a white American president, distinguished himself on the race issue by establishing the Kerner Commission to enquire into the endemic racist conditions that were at the heart of the race-based civil disorders of the mid-1960’s and to propose possible solutions. What has President Obama done on the issue of anti-black racism since becoming president? The tragic answer is:– nothing of consequence!
Truly, the time has come for us to move forward on this issue! The advent of the United Nations Decade For People of African Descent says to us that the time has come for us as Black people to express solidarity with each other right across the Black Diaspora! The time has come for us to collectively declare an attitude of zero tolerance towards all elements of anti-black racism and racial discrimination.
The time has also come for us to address the United States Government about this issue of the racial oppression of our African-American brothers and sisters, and to use our political leaders and diplomats to take this issue before the United Nations organization and other international human rights bodies.
Quite frankly, in this UN International Decade For People of African Descent, the time has come for us to undertake powerful transnational campaigns of activism to finally and permanently destroy the centuries-old demon of institutionalized anti-black racism.
David Comissiong is President of
the Clement Payne Movement.