White Guilt (and Black Anger) -- in Barbados
Recently in Bridgetown it was reported that, in memory of the slaves who suffered and died, there was a historical re-enactment. That is to say, there was a re-enactment with a difference.
Over 40 white activists, the vast majority of whom were tourists, came to the island to make an extraordinary act of reconciliation. They took to the streets in chains, ropes and appropriately sloganed Tshirts to act out the experience of being slaves. The slogans included sayings such as "So Sorry" and the marchers suffered in the 90 degree heat as they made the early morning march on the ABC highway.
It was probably rough going... some might have run out of bottled water, and many probably experienced a mild sunburn from the mid-day sun.
By the way, this is a true story and as the humor writer Dave Barry would say... ''I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP." The link can be read here.
It was hoped, I am sure, that this act of self-deprivation and sacrifice would make up, in part, for 400 odd years of brutal European and North American led chattel slavery that transplanted some 350 million unsuspecting Africans to the Americas. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that some of them were my ancestors.)
While I'm unsure of the impact of this march on the average Bajan's feeling of anger and outrage, I doubt that it did much more for the average marcher than waste some sunscreen and further scuff up their Birks. Some of the reactions to the march can be read here:
Doan Mind Me
Now, to be honest, this whole thing struck me on several levels, all of which seem to be unsuitably contradictory ...
As a "High-Minded" Liberal:
The idea of taking responsibility is admirable, and to be applauded. It starts the process of reversing the trauma caused by slavery on all sides. I'm also impressed by the courage it took to take the stand they are taking. I felt this way especially after reading the article in the Voice above, and visiting the sponsoring organization's website: LifeLine Expedition
As a Carnival man:
Oh God -- but what's de fuss -- dey jus playing Mas'!!! -- in reverse!!
Where is de strong drinks? Throw away dat water -- dat not strong enough. Ahh hear dey bringing out a white man-only "slave section" in the next Minshall band!!!
As a Jamaican:
Clearly, someone had a good idea which island to perform the symbolic re-enactment in (and which islands to avoid.) The same march done in Ja would have probably caused a riot and an international incident, especially if some Rastas or mad men I know got sight of this band of innocent, well-intentioned people... I could imagine foreign embassies having to bail them out of some serious trouble, with UN helicopters undoubtedly.
As a Bredda Anancy Businessman
It's clear to me, as a Caribbean business-person, that the effort did just not go far enough, and there is a sweet opportunity here to make some good foreign dollars, pounds and euros.
I would call it ''Reality Tourism.''
The Guilt to Reconciliation Experience™ would include:
- an early morning abduction from the starting point in Trinidad to a waiting Haitian "sailing vessel"
- a public auction in some hot-blooded, chaotic Caribbean island (not Barbados)
- immersion in several days of plantation life, working a crop with primitive tools, dressed in rags, eating real-life leftover food refused by local mutts -- all under the "direction" of some pissed-off machete-wielding "bush-man"
- on the Final Night, a full release from the past with a cut-ass'' from the angriest Black m-f'er we can find!
All-inclusive price of US$15,000 (cash only please, prepaid in full.)
As I was using my many years of formal education to design this business venture, it struck me that in the interest of providing my entire customer base with an equally "life-changing'' opportunity, I should offer a different course. This would be targeted to frustrated Black professionals, rappers, reggae artistes, pre-segregation African Americans, and any other obviously angry Black m-f'ers who have some cash.
It's My Time Now™
This 10 day tropical experience provides a healthy and legal outlet for 400 years of injustice! Features include
- capturing, selling, enslaving and working willing white people in a plantation environment
- HIGH POINT! -- on the Final Night, attain full release from the past by "keeping it real" and truly playing "Backra Massa" for the first time...
Price of Final Night only US$9.5k
Only Bredda Anancy would come up with something like this... but there is a reason that he is a folk-hero whose stories made it from the West coast of Africa, onto slave ships, and to the Caribbean where they are retold hundreds of years later. Frankly, his mind is admired by our people across the region for its ingenuity, and trickster thinking.
One manifestation of this thinking was the popular sentiment expressed as follows: if there is some white person who would sincerely like to make amends, then... just pay my mortgage, cell-phone bill, etc. ... until they stop feeling guilty.
To say the demonstration missed the mark is an understatement, unless its sole purpose was to give a few Europeans an opportunity to get some relief. In that case, Bredda Anancy's Guilt to Reconciliation Experience™ is right up there with the Mad Hatter's Wild Ride.
If, however, it was meant to transform a historical relationship that has real ramifications in today's world , then it missed the mark as it didn't speak to the concerns that we Caribbean people truly have.
The part I find a bit scary is that apparently hundreds of people in England sat down, really and truly believed that this would be a great thing for us Caribbean people, and then spent thousands of pounds in travel expenses and props to make it happen. Without asking.