Mandela, migration and Black achievement
It is only fitting that, in a week in which there are so many important activities globally, some attention be paid to matters beyond our shores, but which have bearing on us. In this regard, what better way to begin but by paying tribute to the achievements of the late Nelson Mandela, a Hero of the African Liberation Movement, on the occasion of the centenary of his birth.
It is heartening to note the activities organized worldwide to celebrate this centenary, and I must commend our Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its initiatives in this direction. Normally, such initiatives would come from civil society organisations, so it is good to note the official recognition. I also wish to commend the government for naming the new South Leeward highway as the Nelson Mandela Highway, in honour of this 20th century titan.
Regrettably, I understand that there are some among us, in the media (regular and social) who are nit-picking over the renaming. Imagine in the 21st century, there are persons querying the renaming of the Highway after Mandela! Apparently the argument being put forward is that why should we choose a non-Vincentian after whom to name the highway, and could we not have found a local person worthy of this honour.
It amazes me that after all the years of trying to build black consciousness, we are still so narrow. Nelson Mandela does not belong to South Africa alone, he is an eternal HERO for all Black people, Vincentians among them. We should be honoured to have something named in his memory. Such narrow thinking, the very opposite of international solidarity, must be combated, but it reveals that we still have a very long way to go.
SHAME AND DISGRACE
The issue dominating global headlines over the past week has been the disgraceful behaviour of the president of the USA, which has brought not just international condemnation, but shame and disgrace to his entire nation. There is no shortage of views on this, so I will not add. However, I find it interesting that the United States should be so upset over what it deems “interference in its affairs”, “attempts to meddle with democracy”, and “foreign intervention in its elections”. What! The USA is complaining about foreign interference in its elections?
If we know anything about history, we would know that some large countries, the USA being chief among them, but the UK and France no innocents in this regard, have long “intervened” in elections in the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and even Europe, to seek outcomes favourable to their interests. The Russians are no strangers to this type of behaviour either. So, “wey dey bawling for?” Ask the people in Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, here in SVG, or in Venezuela, Honduras, the Congo, Iran or Lebanon. Is it that some are allowed to intervene but in turn their precious “democracy” must not be tampered with at all? Foreign intervention, whether in the USA, Russia, Britain or St Vincent and the Grenadines, must be roundly condemned and Trump must do so as loudly as he would have done in any other circumstance which is favourable to his or American interests.
The actions of President Trump are not just reprehensible in relation to Russia, Nato and Europe. His blatant racism is manifest in his policies on immigration, his treatment of non-white migrants and his Nazi-like charge that they are destroying (white) culture. But history has a way of exposing these bigots and racists.
Take the biggest global sporting event for instance, the just-concluded World Cup. It was won by France, normally referred to as “Les Bleus” because of their blue jerseys. Fully fourteen of the 23 French players have African roots, “migrant” community. Perhaps, as one former French President said when a majority-black French team first won the World Cup in 1998, they should be called “Les Noirs”, (the Blacks). Not just France either, for Belgium finished third, with eight of their team having African roots and England, in third place, counted 11 black players in their squad, among them, Jesse Lingaard, who is the grandson of Vincentian immigrants from Stubbs.
Migrants do not hinder but help to spur social and economic development. What would the United States have been without immigrants? How would Britain have recovered from World War 2 without the famous “Windrush generation” from the Caribbean? Canada, France, Holland and the Middle East oil-rich states, all similarly owe a huge debt to immigrants.
Even we in the Caribbean sometimes succumb to such discriminatory behaviour. Take the treatment of Haitians for instance, even though Haiti is a full member of CARICOM, or our attitude towards Guyanese. We may all be flocking there, again, after their expected oil boom. And, we cannot forget Trinidad and Barbados deporting “small islanders.”
That is why the celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela is so important. It is a testament to our humanity and a rejection of the Trumps and tramps of this world.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.