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We should never be ashamed of who we are!

We should never be ashamed of who we are!

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Tue Oct 8, 2013

Editor: St Vincent and the Grenadines is a small country with a high density of ethnicities contained in a small area.

Additionally, these ethnicities are not necessarily separate and distinct, but can be found embodied together in a vast majority of Vincentians. We appear to be a people who has lost its identity and have no care in rediscovering it. This is no accident, nor is it a true reflection of human nature. Rather it may have been a result of the unique history of trans-Atlantic slavery.{{more}} It has been claimed that one of the ways our former colonial masters controlled us was through the destruction of our identity. A sense of identity fosters a sense of pride. A sense of pride fosters strength. Strength is not something wanted in a people you are trying to oppress. Also, having a sense of tribal identity can foster a sense of tribal unity. Unity is increased manpower in a rebellion. What has just been provided may be called an oversimplification as general discourses in history tend to be.

The destruction of tribal unity was particularly important for controlling Akans (Ashanti, Fante etc, commonly referred to as Coromantee or Kromanti) who were a highly militant people. It is claimed that in order to achieve this, it was sometimes the practice of our colonial masters to pair Ashanti men with Igbo women, so that the male offpring would lose their ties to the Ashanti tribe. This was possible because the Ashanti were a matrilineal people and, based on their customs, male offspring were tied to their mothers’ families, which in this case will be the Igbo tribe. Our colonial masters already had an understanding of the division of Africans along tribal lines and the general unwillingness of tribes to work together. Ethnic division is not a trait that is unique to Africa, but can be found worldwide. The end result of colonialism and slavery was a unification of people of diverse ethnicities. This is a positive unity and we should not, in the quest to find out who we are, ever fear that ethnic divisions will arise again. In either case, we are not just a mixed society, but mixed on the individual level. For the sake of knowledge, many of the peoples present in our multi-island state apart from the indigenous inhabitants (a focus more on those pre-independence and on the more commonly known peoples) include from Africa (these I am less sure about because apparently less information is readily available; they are also the more commonly known people associated with the trans-Atlantic slave trade) tribes of the: Akans, Igbo and Yoruba. From Europe and Asia: East Indians, Portuguese, Irish, Scots, Normans and Anglo-Saxons.

We should be proud of the people that went into our mosaic and should never be ashamed of them. We may be ashamed of some of the things that are associated with them, but we should never be ashamed of who we are. In any event, the things associated with a people may have nothing to do with us as individuals or with the families from which we descended. Here we are looking back at the past; we should do so with understanding, importantly, with knowledge and continue to chart our way forward. We should do so as one people, we should maintain our unity as one. “Out of Many, One People” – the motto of Jamaica.

Shamal Connell

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