Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Racial Rift – Kalinago versus Blacks

The racial rift – Kalinago versus Blacks

Before I knew what I now know, I had always considered Kalinagos as black people, a lighter shade with straighter hair but still very much black.

Maybe it was because although I am black, I spent a lot of time down the road at my neighbours house.
They were/are Kalinagos. I consider them family and although the patriarch of their family sometimes bellowed out "sacré negre" at some of us, I always thought it was more in jest; maybe it was because I didn't really understand the underlying emotions at the time or because my creole wasn't any good. He spoke better creole than most of us.

It was until I was an adult though, and started actively engaging in discussion with my Kalinago friends that I came to grasp resentment and even some bitterness towards “Black” people. I've also observed the same from black people towards Kalinagos in all honesty.

I have never been in a forum where race relations were discussed but in the new age of social media I have come across heated debates on Facebook that make me second-guess my place of abode. Is this Dominica that they're referring to? Are these things still on-going?

It's commonly "accepted" by many that the Kalinagos sold Roseau for a bottle of rum and that stigma has been attached to them for generations now and we wholeheartedly embrace this saying without gauging the effects or impacts that it is having on our present day environment.

I remember being at a presentation and the Kalinago man who was to report started his "presentation" by stating, "you know we are illiterate people already" clearly setting himself up for ridicule and failure. What a perception to have of your people and what a stigma to place and propagate about yourself! This isn't an image that professes self-confidence.

The Kalinago people feel slighted by history. Who can really blame them having been labeled as cannibals and other derogatory terms for centuries? But as Alick Lazare reminded us at the launching of his book Kalinago Blood, "it is so important that we avoid 'the danger of the single story' and tell our own, from our perspective and with our voice."

It is damn well time we (Kalinagos and Blacks) started to tell our own story.

Black people were also slighted by history as well and still bear a lot of the stigmas that were attached. The stories of resistance and perseverance, a commonality between black Dominicans and Kalinagos, though is what should be mostly of our focus but that's where we falter most. Even before the abolition of slavery a wedge was driven between the Blacks and Kalinagos and it continues today.

How do we break that wedge, break down that wall. Though outright acts of racism may not form part of our everyday society, we must honestly admit that underlying tones are there. I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it too (knowingly and unknowingly) and I may have even contributed to it (unknowingly) but like I’ve come to understand from Dr. Maya Angelou, “when you know better, you must do better” so I urge us all, to now do better.

I think I will go back to considering Kalinagos as Blacks now, for they are my brothers and sisters on this island of Waitukubuli aka Dominica.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The kalinagos people have been subjected to a lot of racism from many Dominicans for many decades. I remember as a child (over 25 years ago) travelling from Roseau to Kalinga on one of their buses. Througout the whole journey the roads were usually lined with other Dominicans calling them names, like cwaib or cwaib 'sot'and many other racist and savage names were pelted at us. My people endured this abuse and said nothing. Even today, the progress and development of our indigenous people have been restricted and they continue to be discriminated against. They don't own their land titles, unlike everybody else in Dominica who does. Their beautiful women have been exploited and consequently the indigenous race has been watered down, hence the reason why they look like blacks. I do not have a problem with love, as long as it is real, however, I believe there is no justification in preserving the land and not the race. The people have been misrepresented in history and its a shame we teach that history to our children in schools, perpetuating injustice and stereotypical views.
Being called scare negre is wrong, however, it stems from decades of racism directed towards the Kalinagos. It is for our leaders to erradicate this racism within our community and unite our people with the hope that our indigenous people will be afforded the same opportunity to make as much progress as other Dominicans.
Roseau was not sold for rum. They fought to protect but it was stolen by the Europeans. Consequently, they were described as warlike in their attempts to do so. Remember, history refers to his story and the story we teach about our indigenous people, our pride is the story of the Europeans. I am sure that if it was written by the indigenous leader of the time the Europeans would have been described as warlike, among other things.
The wrongs of colonisation and slavery are having lasting negative repercussions that destroy societies and. propagates hatred and impedes education and development.