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We are all Vincentians – black or white!

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Fri, Feb 24. 2012

Editor: Maia Eustace’s article in last Friday’s paper provides evidence of desperation in her household about her father’s dwindling chances of ever becoming Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines by winning a general elections. Her article invited a discussion about race, but highlighted, either expressly or by implication, four important issues, namely:{{more}}

(a) A manifestation of contrived black consciousness

(b) An attack on Jomo Thomas

(c) An excuse for her father’s failure to win a general election as the leader of a mass party

(d) The apparent cowardice of Arnhim Eustace for hiding behind his daughter

I am at a loss as to why a statement by her colleague referring to two black persons as monkeys should attract attention to warrant an article about race. If the person had said those ‘two pork skinned white trash’, would Maia Eustace have called for a debate about race?

Vincentians have experienced George Charles, Ebenezer Joshua, Milton Cato, and for a very brief period Arnhim Eustace, as leaders of this country. What they have in common is that they are all dark skinned or black people. Can one honestly say that Mitchell is white? The photographs of his parent and grandparents between pages 80 and 81 in his book ‘Beyond the Islands’ clearly confound any representation of Sir James Mitchell being white. The only difference between a light skinned black person and Sir James is the hair – so one can safely discount Sir James as white. That leaves us with only Prime Minister Gonsalves, who can just about be considered as being white, although in certain temperate countries he will not be considered as such. Please answer this question, Maia Eustace: Why did Vincentians choose a black skinned Milton Cato over a light skinned James Mitchell? Again, Maia Eustace, why did Sir James, whom you consider to be white, hand over the prime minister’s position to your father Arnhim Eustace, who is black? Isn’t Jerry Scott of a lighter complexion than your father?

Maia Eustace has not provided in any structured and constructive manner an argument to support her insinuations about black and white. What she has brought to light is the insensitivity of our people. Vincentians are known to hit their countrymen whether verbally or physically where they consider would inflict excruciating pain. If calling you black and ugly or ‘picky head’ will hurt you, they will say it, notwithstanding that their brothers, sisters, mothers or fathers may also be black and ugly or picky head as well. Should one consider those remarks to be indicative of black self-hatred? When white people call each other white trash or rednecks, is that white self hatred or just mere vulgar abuse? When Stalky John was leader of the Labour Party, the NDP supporters said that they did not want a black ugly man to lead this country, now the very NDP seems to be playing the race card once again by flipping the other side of the coin. It is no longer white against black for the NDP, but black against white.

The mere fact that some children like white dolls over black ones ought not to be associated with race unless there is empirical evidence to that effect. There are more white dolls on the market than black ones. Advertising has a powerful influence on adults, let alone children. Are children aware of the implications of being one race as opposed to the other? Are there features of the white doll that may massage the tastes and preferences of a child and thus influence her decision to prefer the white doll as opposed to the black? There are many factors that may have influenced the decision making process. Therefore, Maia Eustace was wrong to jump to the conclusion that because a very small cross section of Vincentian children preferred a white doll over a black doll that they were motivated by black self-hatred. Her analysis is as geographically ridiculous as concluding that the weather conditions in the tropics is freezing having conducted her survey in Antarctica. It is like jumping straight from the North Pole to the South Pole in justifying her own prejudices on race without first navigating the weather conditions in the tropics and equatorial regions.

The vast majority of our young people like music. Many of the artistes are black and many of them wear the Rastafarian hair style. They are revered by our young people. So how does the singular white leader in Dr. Gonsalves adversely affect the pride and dignity that are engendered in our young people who use our black Rastafarian musical artistes as role models? Again Maia Eustace’ reasoning is fundamentally flawed. Our young black people no longer have to be too concerned about their blackness as did those in the 1960s. There are too many role models at home and abroad that strengthen their resolve against perceived inferiority. President Barrack Obama is the most recent international figure championing our blackness. Before him, Kofi Anan was the Secretary General of the United Nations. He, too, carried the flame of black consciousness. Our young people vote leaders with their consciences and on the basis of historical traditions. They do not, whether consciously or subconsciously, vote colour or race. One cannot deny that colour may be one of the features that may influence a course of action, but it does not determine who is or is not Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

I can understand Maia Eustace’s plea to have her father become elected Prime Minister just on the basis of race, but it would not happen that way, and, therefore, her efforts are futile. By her own admission, her colleague paid little or no attention to her complaint about the two monkeys story. Incidentally, her colleague did not say two black monkey; she said that he said two monkeys. So why does Maia Eustace presume that they were called monkeys because they were black? I am certain that there are monkeys with white fur. As a matter of fact, I have heard persons referring to white people as monkeys as well. Is it that Maia Eustace is not comfortable with her blackness or black features? Should one assume that she feels inferior to someone of a lighter skin complexion?

Your father, Mr. Eustace, needs to ignore verbal abuse which may insinuate race and instead demonstrate his ability for all Vincentians to see. Produce alternative positions to that of the white Dr. Gonsalves. Show that he is more knowledgeable and capable than the white Dr. Gonsalves. Show that he can appeal to regional and international political and financial agencies more than the white Dr. Gonsalves and show that he really cares about people and not just about becoming Prime Minister.

Mr. Eustace needs to stop hiding behind the race card and not allow his daughter to front for him. Jomo’s statements will never be taken to mean that he is impressed by a person because of the colour of his or her skin. Your argument in that regard needs only be mentioned to say that you are responding in defence of your father – a job that he should do for himself. The article shows that Maia Eustace’s black consciousness is somewhat contrived. I wonder how the Greaves, Bonadies, Syrians and the Veiras feel now that they are apprised of the thinking of a member of the Eustace household and the daughter of the Leader of the Opposition. Maia Eustace has done irreparable harm to her father because her article seeks to start a division on the basis of race and politics in total ignorance of the fact that we are all Vincentians, black or white.

Margaret Fontaine

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