Steven Bantu Biko said that integration was not the answer to racism. Biko propelled the idea of Black Consciousness as the solution to a racist society. “Black Consciousness was and still is a struggle for a new consciousness, a reawakening of a self-consciousness, a re-appropriation of black self-consciousness from the clutches of an appropriative and dominating white consciousness, a rediscovery of the black self which lay buried beneath white consciousness imposed on blacks by cultural, political, economic, linguistic and religious domination”. That was the sentiment of Steve Biko as he fought to destroy a racist system that kept his brothers and sisters marginalised and disadvantaged. The prejudice that was to be found in the racist system of South Africa’s apartheid was seemingly the focal point of the international pressure to end that system. The problem with that is that colour prejudice is not the only component of racism. This means a racist system can function in an “integrated” society. It can be argued a racist system can function and flourish in an integrated society better than a color prejudiced one. The term racist or racism used in this article speaks to political and/or economic power used to disadvantage one grouping over another based on race. Colour prejudice is used to describe a society openly divided along the lines of race. In a colour prejudiced society there would be public whites’ only areas and institutions that only cater to the needs of white people.
We are fully aware of the story of South Africa, but do we dare look inwards and put Barbados under the microscope of Black Consciousness? Is the Black/African descended Barbadian dominated by White/European Barbados? In an attempt to take an objective look at this question, we will look at the religious, political, economic and linguistic landscape of Barbados.
Religion in Barbados is dominated by a Eurocentric Christian tradition. The island’s colonial past which experienced the institution of Christianity as the main tool in the enslavement and colonialisation of African people has left us with the legacy of religious domination by this Christian establishment. It is clear that African spiritual systems such as the Yoruba, Rastafari and to some extent the Spiritual Baptist are currently marginalised in Barbadian society. Whereas European Christian philosophy dominates our public school system, African spirituality is seldom encouraged in our schools. African drums, which play an important role in our spiritual observances, are viewed as negative and damning to the soul. Voodum or Voodoo is a term that strikes fear in our own people, as it has been presented as a tool of the devil; it is never seen in a positive light – it is never highlighted as the foundation of Haiti’s fight against slavery. The observance of most African spiritual systems is seen as Voodoo or Obeah based by the wider society. African spiritual systems often use physical media as a bridge to the spiritual realms to interact with ancestors and receive various forms of information. These practices are frowned upon under a Eurocentric religious framework and considered as having their roots is evil. Therefore, African spiritual systems are marginalised.
Economic domination by white Barbados is an area that I don’t think anyone could disagree with. Where is black Barbados in the economic hillside of our island? I would seem that we are at the bottom of the hill, feverishly fighting one another like crabs in a barrel to make it close to the middle of the hill. The black man now has a job, a car loan and a mortgage to pay and through these means can own his own house, car and whatever luxuries he or she sees fit to indulge in. He, the black man, can go pretty much anywhere he feels like going, so he is filled with a sense of freedom - never stopping to take note of the fact that 90% of the luxuries he works to attain are produced by another race. Never does the black man stop to think that the institutions to which he has paid large amounts of interest on car loans, mortgages and other loans are owned by others. How many black hotel owners does the island have? Who owns our construction industries? When I look out on the water and see the yachts, I ask myself how many are black owned. The majority of the more established businesses in Barbados are not black owned. Our hopes and dreams are still to be able to work in top managerial positions in other people’s corporations, to be doctors and lawyers that uphold a system that handicaps your own people for the attainment of the luxuries that the other man has to offer you.
Yacht Club Meeting.
Harbour Lights Night Club
Middle Class Barbados
Language in Barbados is clearly dominated by Europe. In school we can learn from very early, English, Spanish, French and in days gone by Latin. Latin is still considered the root of all important languages. I am yet to hear of any African language being taught in our educational institutions. With the coming of China to our shores, I am sure we will see various forms of the Chinese language being introduced in our schools. Language is closely knitted with our educational system and it reflects the absence of an African cultural, spiritual and historical presence in our schools. The capitalist model of operation is perpetuated in our schools, crushing ideals of community empowerment and development. The language that we are being left with is my personal progress at the expense of anything or anyone.
Politics and politicians – what can be said of them? It is clear that these various forms of domination have been sanctioned and allowed by the governments of this island - governments have allowed a Pan African Commission to be a governmental agency that serves to help to crush the Black Conscious movement under the guise of lifting it up. It is one of the government institutions that the people are saying is a waste of money as nothing tangible can be seen coming out of it. The government upholds the laws and help to create the laws that keep us disadvantaged and the other man advantaged.
This article is not meant to be an in depth investigation into the many areas of our society into which European domination has settled quite comfortably. It is only a brief overview of the workings in the island and why it is a racist society and in my estimation the perfect Apartheid system. No revolutionary messages for change are heard, no messages of race pride, no messages of social change and responsibility only partying and drinking to get drunk. Drunk, the national state of our people, as endorsed by our own government…for whose interests?
What can we do to make a change? We must organise, we must educate, we must inspire and influence. We have to make a commitment to work with collectives of people who have the vision and will develop strategic plans of action to create the power needed to influence the change needed to destroy a racist society. Take a listen to what the African Heritage Foundation is advocating as a plan of action for revolutionary change: I am my brother’s keeper and my sister’s defender. Black Consciousness is relevant and needed today as much as it was needed then in Steve Biko’s time.
In an island in which blacks represent the overwhelming majority of the population, all black businesses should be big businesses. Let us determine how this can be accomplished. – Simba Simba