R. Rose
June 26, 2015

Black people have been silent for too long

“Love thy neighbour as thyself” is a very famous Christian teaching which we all have learnt, if not practised, since we were small. Using this principle as a guide, and based on the reaction of Black people worldwide to what is taking place around the world today, it is not unreasonable to ask whether Black people can truly love their neighbours.{{more}}

In order to do so, one must first love oneself and to judge by how we respond to matters affecting our own people, whether in South Caro­lina, north-east Nigeria or in the Domini­can Repub­lic, to give a few examples, it is questionable whether we can truly claim to love our own.

Why are we so vocal in our concern for the “human rights” of the people of Venezuela, or driven to comment on affairs affecting the people of Ukraine, and incensed by the atrocities of ISIS in the Middle East, but not similarly driven to public expressions of outrage against what is happening to our own people in those three regions mentioned above?

There are political spokespeople among us who have convenient tongues, ready to condemn or make statements on matters which affect the interests of our “traditional friends,” but not driven to be identified with condemnation of the brutal murder of Black people worldwide. If what had happened in South Carolina last week had been instead in a church in Venezuela where anti-government protesters were praying, those voices of the defenders of “human rights” amongst us would resound loudly.

The events in South Carolina are no isolated incident of any ”mad man.” They are rooted in an instituted system of racism and racial oppression, which took the lives of Trayvorn Martin in Florida, Eric Garner, allegedly selling cigarettes illegally in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, just to name a few. If we want more evidence of open prejudice, just look at the timid arrest of the mass murderer in South Carolina, as contrasted with how police tackled black victims of traffic violation, “unruly” party-goers or persons selling cigarettes! Hardly a month passes by without some such deadly report of brutal killing of black folk, victims of institutionalized racism, in a country which has seen its first Black President in its nearly 240 years of existence.

A co-incidence? Not at all, for the admirably patient President Obama has even been attacked for his pronouncements on these acts which heap shame on American democracy. He has been lampooned and hounded viciously by the right-wing Republicans in the USA, bedfellows of some of our politicians in a largely black Caribbean.

The media plays its role in this too, as pointed out in the aftermath of the Charleston massacre by perceptive commentators. These persons noted how the mainstream media is quick to ascribe “madness” to the actions of the young racist murderer. Had this been a black-on-white killing though, it would have been labelled the work of a “criminal” and if the perpetrator were a Muslim, “terrorism” would be the operative term.

That is why it is so important for us to think for ourselves and not be swayed by those who do not have our best interests at heart. Yes, we will have our own political differences, but these pale into insignificance when compared with the chasm between us all, and those who would continue to oppress, exploit and brutalize black people.

Those among us who try to use race to further their selfish political ends, what are they saying when the very right to life of Black people are so seriously trampled upon? Where are their voices in relation to the oppression of Black people born in the Dominican Republic of Haitian origin, denied rights of citizenship and now facing deportation?

We, Black people, the people who are “darker than blue,” (to use the words of the singer Curtis Mayfield), have historically been the most forgiving of people, perhaps except to one another. We have been exemplary in demonstrating the principles of Jesus Christ, as evidenced by the forgiveness of the families of those murdered in South Carolina, but we are not even getting credit for it. The time has come for us to speak out loudly against these continued acts of racial oppression and discrimination. We must let those in the corridors of power in the USA, Santo Domingo, or wherever, know that Caribbean people are concerned, and strongly condemn and call for action to defend and guarantee the rights of our Black brothers and sisters. We can be silent no longer!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.