Our Readers' Opinions
October 21, 2005

Let the real debate on race re-emerge

EDITOR: Recently, the Prime Minister’s comments about race have generated much debate.

These debates on race are a welcome departure from “the culture of silence on race”. For a long time, many people have been trying to get this important debate going but hardly any enthusiastic responses were forthcoming. But now the Prime Minister has spoken, people are responding. However, what concerns me is the nature of the debate. I think the debate does not have be divisive.{{more}}

What is needed is a national debate on our racial heritage leading to national action on issues facing SVG. Keeping the race debate alive is not about putting one race against the other race in SVG. It should be about addressing issues including:

(1) Genuine recognition of the historic dispossession of black and indigenous people because of slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism, realising that actions must be taken to correct this historic dispossession;

(2) Genuine recognition of indentured servants from Europe and Asia, some of whom lived in poverty, ensuring that they too continue to enjoy this land of ours without discrimination;

(3) Sustaining unity achieved so far between the descendents of the indigenous people, African captives or “slaves”, and the descendents of indentured servants from Europe and Asia;

(4) Access to high quality and affordable health care, education, and housing, and enjoyment of fundamental human rights;

(5) Genuine participatory democracy in determining the direction of the nation, and economic growth with equity.

A strong and meaningful effort to resolve these issues will surely be an attack on racism. It will restore dignity, history and a higher sense of responsibility to the sons and daughters of the indigenous people and those of former captives/”slaves”. At the same time it will do the same for the sons and daughters of former indentured servants.

Coming out of these debates on race should be a deeper commitment to the socio-economic advancement of SVG. The challenge for us is to ensure that we sanitize the debate and raise the race issue in a developmental way, not in a divisive and condescending way.

The race debate should be conducted in a way that helps us find solutions to the economic, social, political and cultural problems with which the nation is confronted. The debate and resulting action should also ensure that all Vincentians, regardless of skin colour, enjoy access to opportunities for realizing their full human potential.

Maxwell Haywood