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It Is Not Only About Racial Profiling!

LettersIt Is Not Only About Racial Profiling!

The Editor,
Belize City,

Dear Sir,

I would be grateful if you bring this other point of view to your readers. Thank you.

The racism experienced by Mr. Barrington Myvett at the Belize international airport while visiting Belize, which he highlighted in the edition of 3rd September, 2022, of your newspaper, is nothing new. What is also not new is that his two traducers, who are officials of Belize’s Customs service, were, like him, Black Belizeans. Countless Black Belizeans arriving home on a visit, including myself, have either had a similar experience or witnessed it happening to others. Indeed, the white tourists, some of whom may be even carrying drugs, are routinely and solicitously waved away without their luggages checked, while hapless Black Belizeans, despite having nothing to declare, have their suitcases turned upside down, with their personal effects in full display to all and sundry milling around.

But tourism is not the sole culprit of mental slavery. Long before the tourist industry made its pernicious inroads into Belize, Black Belizeans of a certain age group well know what the expression, “Me com hat in han, boss” conjures. This is when weak-minded individuals, who happen to be members of a persecuted and discriminated ethnic group, are afflicted with a severe attack of inferiority complex, particularly when interacting with ethnic groups or races they consider superior to them. This is often manifested in extreme obsequious behaviour, to the point of self-abnegation. And, to further compensate for their loss of self-respect, they then viciously turn on their own people in pathetic displays of power to harass and humiliate. There is also the urgent desire to curry favour and “show Massa” how efficient and loyal they are!

One of the strangest pieces of advice I received from my mother when I began travelling out of Belize, and based off her own experiences was, “try to avoid dealing as much as possible with minority ethnic immigration and customs personnel and WOMEN”. Why? Her response was that they are usually very insecure people and therefore need to prove to their white superiors that they are more than up to the task of doing a good job. Thus, they tend to go overboard and overplay their roles! “They will grill you far more than whitey and put you through many changes, all to show how scrupulous and efficient they are”, my mother explained.

But since that time, so long ago, nothing has changed. Recently, I had a particularly ignorant encounter at London’s Heathrow airport with a Sikh border control official who wanted to know what I was doing with a Belizean passport, as if he could not read English and see that the passport indicated that I was born in Belize City, Belize, many, many moons ago and did not look like an Inuit! Which goes to show how insidious and pervasive the hatred of self, kind and others like you in the same racist boat can be. Slavery and the colonial experience, whether in Belize and India, or America, after all these centuries, still manage to cast a long and sinister shadow on Black and Brown psyches in a myriad of conscious and subconscious ways.

So Black people in particular, including Black Belizeans, suffer to a large extent a double jeopardy — both from the external “enemy” and their “me com hat in han, boss” acolytes within.

Thérèse Belisle-Nweke
The writer lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

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