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Blackthink, Whiteout

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by Oscar Allen

Blackthink, for me, is a gift from 1970 or thereabouts. One verse puts it this way:

Blackthink is whitey’s golgotha alphabet of fury on Sundays and Pentecostal chaos the only combinations to free the spaces and fling away the horizons of straining at the needle eye into whitewash…

Blackthink lives in me, but only rises from rest when it feels that I am slipping into some deep error. It is not alone. I have other reinforcements of the spirit that walk and work with me through the encounters and discourses that make up my day. Yes, blackthink is my whitey’s golgotha, an agency of liberation from whiteout. {{more}}

Recently I read a 2003 paper by Adrian Fraser exploring the 1935 riots. (By the way, his full length book on those riots is to be released later this year.) Blackthink chook me as I was reading the paper, and reminded me to pay attention to things I had slipped up on.

As I see it, the Fraser paper was concerned with the British colonial styling of rape, then bribe the victim. The man rape the child and the woman offer the bribe. That was British colonialism, but another time for that. I want to touch on the 30-year-old discussion on the condition of the Vincentian private sector, once referred to as the shopkeeper class, they make a living by buying goods overseas to sell in the domestic economy. Some say: “what a noble and necessary service they do.” Others say: “they take little risk, they seize no opportunity; they are not like the Matouks, the Goddards, the Grace Kennedys, Walmart and the Taiwanese. They lack initiative.” I find myself nodding and saying” yes, is time, these folks don’t have it in there to lead the economy, no guts, no enterprise.” Then I read Fraser and blackthink!

Professor Woodville Marshall and moreso, our Adrian Fraser point to the new private sector of exslaves who became workers – farmers – peasants. Early Marshall says they had a period of establishment, then expansion, then consolidation. They were a class-in-struggle. In the language of the Harvard Business Review and such, they were self confident, risk taking opportunity seeking, innovative, dedicated, problem solving and flexibly strategic – an entrepreneurial class – this bumptious country stained block of men and women.

Around 1935, Fraser lifts out from the records then that more than half of the private land in SVG was owned by 30 estates; the old and dominant private sector yet peasant agriculture, on smaller portions of land, produced 1/3 of the arrowroots, 2/5 of the cotton and all the foodcrops grown in the islands. The peasants were greatly involved in the export market, even selling their minor crops in the regional market. Sugar ceased to be the focus of attention.

The new rural private sector 100 years after the overthrow of colonial slavery, did not get promotion from the old estate class, did not get financing offers from the Bank and do not enter into our thinking when we discuss the Vincentian private sector. They are the victims of “whiteout”, the liquid that we use to correct mistakes! Where did these hapless, often schoolless, Carib Garifuna, African, Portuguese and Indian working people learn business to compete in the racist marketplace and still stand tall? When we consider the private sector as the one to lead SVG into economic development, do we still think in whiteout terms of – like Goddards and Walmart? Do we really know who we are?

But Blackthink forces me on to ask, does the rural entrepreneur still have it? If not, why not? What colonial and post colonial conditions have eaten, are eating the guts out of that new clan in the struggle? Barclays Bank, you probably have a lot to answer for. But many other diversions did dance before the eyes of the peasant revolutionary business people. To name a few:

• Miseducation of children away from business and agribusiness explicitly;

• Uneven development and poverty in the countryside – an engine for migration;

• Party political and Independence unbalanced focus on urbanising and political welfare priorities;

• The estate counter revolution through bananas whiteout is a still strong undermining force in us and we must craft our discourse and our directions carefully. We must base ourselves on a growing discovery of ourselves. Blackthink.

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