Dear Mr. Bilal Morris,
I write to you as a Maya descendant, responding to the article you wrote on November 14, 2018, entitled, “Garifuna soul in Education in 1900’s Colonial British Honduras.” The book review you presented expressed strong personal biases and reflections which I wish to refute. I consider them as outright insults towards the Maya people of Belize. My commentary highlights four arguments that portray your intellectual predilection—the “White man’s burden.” I will illustrate how your ideology and expressions are almost identical to the principles of a Western poem published in the late 1800s.
When Christopher Columbus got lost in the Americas in 1492 (he thought he was in Cipango, Asia), two worlds collided, primarily benefiting the Europeans. The Europeans launched violent dispossession of numerous groups of peoples that coexisted throughout the Americas and the Caribbean. The Europeans used “Christianization” as a “civilizing” weapon to justify their violent plunder of the American peoples. A horrific example was the almost extermination of 4 million Tainos— a population of people reduced to 10,000 souls. In your article, you continue the “civilizing,” “imposing,” and self-serving ideology that justified the violence against the peoples of the Americas, including us Maya people. Despite your acknowledgment of the atrocities brought on peoples of the Americas by Columbus, your ideological inclination demonstrates hatred towards the Indigenous peoples of Belize, especially the Mayas of Southern Belize.
1. You refer to us and our ancestors as “ignorant,” “stubborn,” “backward,” “primitive,” “immoral,” “wild,” “dark souls,” and even “unfriendly.” After you recast us Mayas as such, you allege that we “were saved by European principles and lifestyles.” Where is your respect towards a great civilization that dominated all of Mesoamerica? Where is your respect for the lives of the fallen Maya soldiers who defended their lifestyles and Peoples with their lives? Your flawed opinion assumes that the Maya were living an unhappy life and that Christianity and the Western educational system saved them from this misery. How did you determine that? The educational process was/is what it was/is, deserving of much critique. My emphasis here, however, is on the insulting, denigrating, and racist way you describe my ancestors.
2. Lamentably, your opinion promotes divisions between us Mayas and our Garifuna sisters and brothers of Belize. Instead of celebrating the undeniable contribution of the Garifuna people, you spend much time denigrating the Maya. A much more productive – and still necessary discussion – would have been a discussion of the morally and ethically difficult positions the Garifuna teachers might have encountered in their “civilizing mission” of their fellow Indigenous sisters and brothers—the Mayas. You inauspiciously present your views as the views of the author. This is unhealthy and unnecessary for us indigenous peoples of Belize.
3. You present Mr. Enriquez as an agent of the “white man’s burden.”
a. You present him as superior to the Maya people and innately present the Maya as inferior and uncivilized. By doing so, you are portraying Mr. Enriquez as taking on a heavy burden and responsibility to “whiten” the lives of the Maya.
b. You present his sacrifices and patience as necessary sources of pride in “saving” a group of people that were living backward, without hopes of a future.
c. You present our ancestors as incapable of understanding. You equate my people to animals, who need to be tamed; undeveloped, scarce of ideas, desperate to survive, backward, unintelligent and most importantly not able to be creative. These, Mr. Morris, are insulting and racist statements.
Who authorized you to allege that the Mayas lived terrible lives? To say that we are not progressive? That we are backward? Who authorized you to tell us that Western development is our best and only option? I see. The White Man. Do you have “the White Man’s Burden” syndrome, Mr. Morris?
4. You surmise that the education system was a revolutionary system in the 1900s? Why Revolutionary? Revolutionary for whom? Whose interests did it serve? I am yet to identify the prevalence of self-love in Belize, engendered by its historic and current educational system. Regrettably, your opinion promotes self-hate when you claim that our lifestyles are not good enough if we do not comply with Westerners’ lifestyles.
I write to you as a disgruntled Maya man, upset at your denigrating and racist comments. While disgruntled, however, I am equally disappointed in your use of flawed opinions as analysis. Despite, your (hopefully) unfortunate words, peace my Brother. I will continue to fight for a decolonized Belize. I extend you a warm invitation to taste the liberating flavors of decolonization. An excellent place and time to start the liberating journey is by checking your privileges, questioning your assumptions, and examining the problematic sources of your coloniality.
In unity, equity, and respect,
A Maya of San Antonio, Cayo, Belize.
Editor’s Note: AMANDALA has provided a forum for Mr. Tzib to express his objections to some of the statements made in Mr. Bilal Morris’s article, but this forum also remains available for Mr. Morris to address the criticisms and allegations that have been made against him.