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I am very proud of my ancestry

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Fri, Oct 7. 2011

Editor: It has been said that racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason. It is a statement with which I agree wholeheartedly, not only because of the intense contempt that is held for those whose skin is of a particular hue or who share a common heritage, something over which they have no control, but because, like a cancer, it can go undetected for a long period of time, only rearing its ugly head when the damage has been done.{{more}}

Sadly, I have heard the comments made by the Minister of Agriculture regarding the roots of most in the Vincentian Society- the Blacks, the Indians and the Caribs – and I am at a loss as to what could be his thinking, his motivation, for making such statements. Was he thinking when he uttered his callous, condescending remarks which insulted the vast majority of the electorate who entrusted him with the authority to represent them in Parliament?

Anyone with an interest in West Indian history would know of the slave trade and of the harrowing ordeal of the Middle Passage – crossing the Atlantic from Africa – endured by most slaves when they were ripped from their African villages and transported like animals in the hold (the storage cavity below the deck of the ship) to the Americas and the Caribbean. Having the benefit of excellent, engaging history teachers, as a school child I was able to travel back in my mind to the 19th Century and relive the nightmare that was the Middle Passage: the shackles, the stench of hundreds of bodies, some dead, others dying, crammed like sardines into spaces far too small for the human cargo that was being carried; the indignity of having to perform bodily functions where they lay, the mental torment of being snatched from the only home they knew and not knowing where they were going. This was the way my ancestors came to these shores, and while it is an unfortunate part of our history, it is certainly nothing of which one should be ashamed. Indeed, I am fiercely proud that my ancestors survived such an ordeal: I wouldn’t be here were it otherwise. Given the inhumane conditions of the hold, it could only be by sheer faith and the will to survive that some made it to the end of the two-month journey across the Atlantic.

By the same token, our Indian brothers and sisters, whose ancestors came here as indentured servants, some of whom came by choice for a better living, while others were reportedly forced into indentureship, have nothing of which to be ashamed and much of which they should be proud.

With that in mind, it is completely baffling to me that an elected official could in this day and age make such a derogatory and backward (for want of a better word) comment. That some should then condone what was said and still others remain quiet is even more disturbing.

One may struggle to ascertain what good can come from the utterances made; but perhaps…and hopefully… it will serve to unite an otherwise bitterly divided population. We share a common bond: we are human. Let’s stand up for each other, irrespective of political affiliation, colour or class. We are all created equal and, as such, none is inferior and deserving of better treatment than the other. We know this already, which is why the recent comments should incense every right-thinking individual…not just the Blacks and the Indians. I would, therefore, hope that those who are in positions to speak to the populace, whether through the print media, radio, television, the pulpit or otherwise, will use their positions to educate, empower, uplift and unite us at this time, when we need it more than ever.

Zhinga Horne Edwards

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