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.
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.