“Any Third World leader who preaches against colonialism yet will not tackle the deeper problem of colorism is evading the real issue.
“There is no white colony in the world: all colonized peoples have a common denominator – coloring.
“The conclusions are there to be drawn.”
– pg. 100, X COMMUNICATION, Evan X Hyde, Angelus Press, Belize City, 1995
One of the strange things about Belize is that you can hear enough complaints and criticisms to last a lifetime, but we are also always hearing these effusive and sincere testimonials of how much we love Belize. Things are sometimes a bit contradictory.
I know one thing about Belize, and it is that this society is rigged. Our society remains colonial in its thinking, and what I mean by this is that there is, from day to day, an entrenched favoritism/colorism which features certain families at the top, and then the masses being trampled on at the base of the socio-economic pyramid. I want to give you two examples of how Belize works.
Ray Lightburn was an exceptionally gifted but controversial individual who was very close to the two most powerful PUP politicians in Belize during the middle 1970s – Premier George Price and Deputy Premier C. L. B. Rogers. Whenever the PUP needed any muscle work to be done back then, Ray got the contract. He was a cynical man in some ways, but was known by the streets as very generous. Because of that unwavering generosity, he was popular in the streets. Everything Ray hustled, he gave away.
One Sunday night, a man named Charles Hoy was driving blind drunk, and he lost control of his vehicle, slamming into two young lady pedestrians, fatally injuring them. This accident happened around 1976, on Freetown Road near where the Subway restaurant was recently located. Ray Lightburn happened to be an eye witness to the accident. He told me that Hoy panicked and tried to run, and Ray ran him down and grabbed him.
In Belize, the Hoy family is a respectable and well-respected family. They are not wealthy, but they are part of the higher structure. When Mr. Hoy was convicted and about to be sentenced, the legendary Fr. Leo Weber of St. John’s College came to the Supreme Court to make a personal plea for him. Charles Hoy was sentenced to two years in prison.
Prison time at the old Her Majesty’s Prison on Gaol Lane took a serious toll on Mr. Hoy, and he suffered a stroke while incarcerated. The stroke left his left hand crippled, but he could walk. When he was released, Hofius Agricultural & Automotive gave him a job as a clerk.
In cases like these in Belize, where the victims are social nonentities, so to speak, and the perpetrators are of rank, the perpetrators are usually treated less leniently than Mr. Hoy was. Just a few years previous to the Hoy case, a member of another ranking Belizean family, Louis Gabourel, was sentenced to two years in jail for the same kind of offence, but Louis had killed Laura Hope Staine, a glorious pianist and beauty who was the young wife of Solicitor General, Albert Staine. Mr. Staine himself was badly injured in the accident. Gabourel’s victims had been ranking. Hoy’s victims were not. In Hoy’s case, however, Ray Lightburn had stood up for justice.
Drunk driving is a very, very bad thing. But, many of us Belizeans have sinned and fallen short of the glory. Manslaughter by drunk driving is not a crime of intent. It is easy to sympathize with the perpetrator when he is sober and penitent afterwards, but innocent people have been killed. In most cases, the drivers are of a higher social rank than the pedestrians. I don’t have to say more: you get the picture.
The second example I will give you of how Belize works is the championship semi-pro basketball series of 1993. The Kremandala Raiders were the best basketball team in Belize, and the Raiders put in more work than anybody else, but our opponents were owned by a multimillionaire, one of the richest men in Belize. Our opponents’ head coach was the son of the UDP-appointed Governor General, and the basketball and business consultant to our opponents’ owner was the nephew of the former Prime Minister and political icon, the Rt. Hon. George C. Price. Our opponents, then, could have been considered classic PUDP. They represented order, society, stability, and the status quo. In such a situation in Belize, it normally does not matter who the better team is. The power structure will seek to have the team of order, society, stability, and the status quo, prevail. If the roots team somehow manages to win, then the league itself has to be destabilized.
We had seen this happen just fourteen years before. Sir Andie’s Happy Homebuilders had defeated Barry Bowen’s Belikin Wheels for the basketball championship of Belize. The following year all Bowen affiliates and loyalists withdrew from administrative roles in basketball, and the destabilization of the league began. This is relatively recent history. This is how Belize works.
The following year after Raiders won, against the socio-politico-economic odds, the team repeated as champions. So now, head coach Marshall Nunez had two championship rings. Belize being what Belize is, however, when a Belize basketball selection was to represent the country in the 1994 CARICOM tournament in the Bahamas, the UDP politicians intervened in the process and chose one of the coaches Nunez had defeated in both 1993 and 1994, to be head coach of the Belize selection.
You “respectable” ones will argue with me and you will say, but Charles Hoy went to prison and the Raiders won the championship. These are exceptions which, as they say, prove the rule. All things being equal, Hoy would not have gone to jail and the Raiders would have been defeated. This is how Belize usually works, and because of the entrenched favoritism and colorism in our still colonial society, there is an anger raging amongst the young people in this city. One of the manifestations of the cold-blooded injustice in our society is something called “crime prevention.” If you don’t know what it is, find out, and then you will begin to understand why our youth are so hostile. “Crime prevention” is a net that pulls in innocent and guilty alike, with no apologies.
We have a problem here: some people are more equal than others. And everybody knows it, but only the roots suffer. At the base of the pyramid, Belize looks totally bogus. I ain’t lying.