“Telling the monarch to leave ‘home’ is not an easy task.”
“…whenever I speak about history I am told to get over it and keep quiet so that you can remain comfortable. Yuh gawh be kiddin’, I don’t care if you are comfortable, because I am not comfortable!” (Akrasinana)
In this blog article, we explore the meaning of republicanism for Barbados and for the wider community of eternally oppressed people on planet earth. Based on our observations of almost 400 years, we can confirm that all formerly colonized spaces (whether they are republican or not) continue to endure the shenanigans of ‘empire’. What is apparent today is that we live in a new and sophisticated phase of exploitation, discrimination, and outright denial of what is happening since the year 1600. We can assure you that this phase is more lethal than how it was practiced in the nineteenth century. Why? because the former colonial master has successfully recruited surrogates from places that were previously colonized who do their dirty work for them on a daily basis (for example I ask: ‘why is the looting of so-called Francophone Africa so easy?’). For the most part, the colonial project continues to exact a pound of flesh from the body politic only because their trained surrogates (the so-called elite in oppressed spaces) have been conditioned to think that ‘Paris knows best’, and that any opposition to that way of thinking has to be crushed – remember Sekou Toure and Sankara?). We the people of formerly colonized geographic entities are still discriminated against, abused, and taken for granted because our own people think that is wonderful! In other words, I submit to you that we do perpetuate the carnage through our own deeds or misdeeds. If it were not so why would we even be continually following the doctrine of divide and rule in our own so-called independent geographically delimited spaces?
But there is no doubt that the issue of Bajan independence will play out positively in formerly colonized circles as we begin to realize that the ‘empire’ does not give a hoot about what we think or what we do so long as they are in charge of the economic levers of the entire global community.
Henceforth, we must force the colonialist and his surrogates to rescind that attitude and unequivocally own up to their actions of over 4 centuries, for until a real apology backed by a program of reparation and a timetable are in place, there can never be reconciliation! And if you live in the diaspora, this is where you come in – your job is simple – lobby your neighbour who is a member of the colonizer’s tribe. We are indeed calling for real ‘decolonization’ of all British government policies and programs – because only the Brit can get to its government.
What is the optimism about?
It is about renewal. It is about a call for a new beginning by one of our most valuable cousins who has endured 400 years of abuse and humiliation. Bajans have had enough and they are nudging us to wake up and finally eliminate the colonial policy of exploitation that characterizes most of our republics today. And so on November 30, 2021, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that Barbados (a small sun-kissed island in the Caribbean with a population of only 285,000 people) is now a parliamentary republic. Indeed, Barbados has rejected the cynicism of ’empire’ and the absurdity of independence with a foreign monarch in charge.
Barbados achieved this feat on the back of a promise by its first Prime Minister Errol Barrow who told a visiting British minister that one day Britain would “not loiter on colonial property past closing time.” On November 30, 2021, a 21-gun-salute reverberated through warm Barbados, and President Sandra Mason, the last governor-general, was sworn in as president to replace Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Winston Farrell, a popular Bajan poet, and author profoundly captured the intensity of what he called ‘a new beginning’. Farrell said:
“…Full stop this colonial page…Some have grown up stupid under the Union Jack, lost in the castle of their skin…It is about us, rising out of the cane fields, reclaiming history…And end all that she means.”
(Winston Farrell, 2021).
Unmistakably, Farrell was calling for a halt to all the exploitation and discrimination now and for eternity! Canada and Australia are yet to do what Barbados has done but what is more revealing to me is whether the colonial masters are really sincere about giving formerly colonized people independence. As far as we are concerned, not very much has changed since 1492 when the first boat from Europe disembarked on ‘other’ shores. Almost 400 years of British (mis)rule has disfigured, enslaved and plundered this island (and others as well) for profit for its own sake. Instead of apologizing for the harm done, Prince Charles, the heir to a fading power, only acknowledged the history that we all know too well. Prince Charles acknowledged the: “…appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history and allowed that the creation of this republic offers a new beginning” (Prince Charles, November 30, 2021).
Real and meaningful atonement:
All well-meaning people around the globe are trying to find genuine and concrete means of humanizing a historically dehumanizing discourse and situation. But we will never get there if the perpetrators and their lieutenants (e.g., our own people in so-called high places) are holding firm to dehumanizing philosophies. The question then becomes: can we trust those in leadership positions to guide us to the desired conclusion? Well, trust only comes from a place of awareness between dominated and dominator. As noted by bell hooks:
“Where does the trust come between dominator and dominated. Between those who don’t have privilege? Trust is part of what humanizes the humanizing relationship, because trust grows and takes place in the context of mutuality. How do we get that when we have profound differences and separations?” (bell hooks)
Formerly colonized people (i.e. the dominated) must stand up and demand reparations for centuries of abuse. Reparation is a very interesting concept with many different opinions on the matter. For starters, when slavery ended in Barbados the people who owned slaves were compensated for their ‘losses’ but the descendants of slaves were not compensated for the hell they went through. This is what I call cynical oversight, for how on earth can we sit back and allow this cynical behavior to go on in the 21st century? Why is the United Nations silent over the need for reparations? We talk about the 21st century as if every injustice has been dealt with but we still live in the 12th century where ‘other’ lives matter when they are contributing to the wealth of the ‘empire’. Will the so-called ‘empire’ finally show up and pay reparations to the people who served as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the empire? I am not holding my breath because the supporters of this injustice will start obfuscating the issues and pointing back at the malfeasance of the ‘other’. Unfortunately, we will not get there if the perpetrators of past and present injustices, backed by their lieutenants all over the globe, hold firm onto the colonizer’s dehumanizing philosophy of suppression and oppression.
*AKRASINANA (aka Andy Kusi-Appiah) is an adjunct professor at Ottawa’s Carleton University. His research seeks to provide a clearer understanding of governance mechanisms that shape access to community resources (e.g., water) and how the resulting inequities shape livelihoods in marginalized and oppressed spaces. Community involvement & volunteering have been Andy’s passion for a long time. Andy was president of the Ghana Association of Ottawa (1995-2003) and senior advisor on Diversity issues to the Mayor of Ottawa (2004-2006) where he led many multi-disciplinary teams to solve complex diversity issues in a timely & sensitive manner. In 2018, Andy was appointed by the Lt. Governor of Ontario as a public member of the Board of Directors of the Ontario College of Social Work and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW).