Features — 09 October 2019
We need to pass a law to stop people from cursing others, “black”

This story has many threads leading into it, but if you are brave and stick with me to the last, you will get my point. We are approaching October 12, a national holiday formerly named Columbus Day, so at least I will not be guilty of not being with the season.

Let’s get this clear: We are a country with many races and we must do everything we can to decrease the friction that can arise in a country where so many diverse peoples share the same beautiful country. Let’s get this clear: We don’t need such a law because people with melanin are begging for such a law.  We need such a law so that people who have melanin don’t have to respond to racism.

This is not like handicapped or mentally affected people needing protection from the state. This is the state protecting itself from the vicious venom of racism that could tear the fabric of the nation. No, it’s not that black people can’t defend themselves against this kind of attack: it is so that they don’t need to.

Let’s get into this story with some quick history. When the buccaneers/pirates (who were mostly white and soon to be called Baymen) came to Belize, the Maya, whose population had been decimated by the marauding Spaniards, had largely withdrawn from the coast. Our Baymen ancestors became involved in logwood and mahogany harvesting. They bought African slaves, our black ancestors, from Jamaica. It is when the white Baymen and their black slaves were working in the forest that they first encountered large groups of Maya, our brown ancestors.

The story is that when our black ancestors escaped the system, they ran into the bushes and formed communities, notable ones being Freetown, Sibun; and Gales Point Manatee. The escaped slaves also ran to neighboring countries, many of them to Mexico. When our black ancestors ran to Mexico, they found a safe haven with the Maya, not with those Mestizos who had little melanin, or with the Spaniards.

There weren’t many white women here, and the white ancestors took advantage of their superior station in the country to co-habit with black slave women, some by rape and others by seduction. The white slave master here also had relationships with Maya women and women from the Mosquito Coast. In time, a tribe called the Kriols came out of these unions.

Speeding up things, there was a battle in these parts between the Spaniards in Mexico and the white slave masters here, a battle called The Battle of St. George’s Cay, and in this battle some black slaves and the Kriols fought alongside the white slave master here. Speeding up, in time the Kriols, as expressed so beautifully by Mr. Pitts in that story reprinted in the Amandala a couple of weeks ago, (daam, I can’t find the article), developed a unique kind of ownership for the country.

Now, along the way other tribes came to Belize, and it is true that the Kriols had names that were not kind to these tribes. (These new tribes had derogatory names for the Kriols too, but we can ignore that.) It is true that the Kriols weren’t always welcoming of these tribes, these new Belizeans, when they came here. It is true that some Kriols weren’t especially kind when the Mayans returned in full to claim rights in this country.

There are some who appear to want to hold this past against the Kriols’ future. The Kriols have not been saints, but they were never physically violent toward any other tribe here.

Before we speed on, this truth must be pointed out — that within the Kriols there are really three tribes: one with plenty melanin, one with much melanin, and one with little melanin. Because of the world order established when Columbus sailed across the seas, the Kriols with plenty melanin and much melanin, and the Garinagu, a tribe with much melanin, are at the bottom of the scale as tribes go, since Columbus.

We have read and heard a lot about color codes since Columbus, but what is equally or even more an issue, but not as much mentioned, is the hair texture code. We really must speed up today, so we’ll move on directly to what I am about.

Ms. Sandra Coye, in one of her discussions with Mose on the WuB, spoke about racial realities in the countries around us. I have lived and worked with new Belizeans from neighboring countries and I know firsthand what Ms. Coye spoke about, and the seriousness of the problem. Many new Belizeans have some blood from Spain, and no matter their status where they came from, it is that some of them are inflated with the same superiority disease that some low-melanin Kriols have.

We had our problems in Belize before the new Belizeans came, and while we welcome our brothers and sisters to our country, we should not allow their problem with black people to multiply our issues here. That’s why I say today that we should pass a law to address anyone who comes here and encourages their children to kos children with melanin, black.

We must teach, and it will help us to do that if we pass a law. I see where New York City recently passed a law to deal with anyone in the city who dares to call a newcomer “illegal” or “illegal alien”. Gwen Aviles, in the story “New York City bans use of ‘illegals’ and ‘illegal aliens’,” on the website NBCNews.com, says that anyone who uses those terms with “intent to demean, humiliate or harass a person” in New York City, can face “fines as high as $250,000, according to new guidance from the city’s Commission on Human Rights.”

Aviles says the guidance makes it illegal to harass or discriminate against “someone for their use of another language or their limited English proficiency, and threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE ) on a person based on a discriminatory motive.”

She says the Deputy Mayor of New York City, Phil Thompson, said the reason behind the law is that they take great pride in their city’s diversity and “the immigrant communities that call New York City home.”

Well, in Belize we feel just as strongly about our fabric, and maybe we should entertain a law like the one passed in New York City. But race is a far deeper issue than immigration. In some ways they are linked, but while you can change your status in a country, you can’t change how God made you, and there are people in this world who think that black people are less than human.

The purpose of our law being for edification, we don’t need to contemplate any fine as punishment. We can institute community service, or forced attendance at a seminar on respect for racial differences.

It’s appropriate that I close this piece with these words from the great 1958 musical, South Pacific. Maybe every man, woman or child who has issues could be forced to learn the song, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”, by heart.

One Wikipedia page about the musical stated the following: “South Pacific received scrutiny for its commentary regarding relationships between different races and ethnic groups. In particular, ‘You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught’ was subject to widespread criticism, judged by some to be too controversial or downright inappropriate for the musical stage. Sung by the character Lieutenant Cable, the song is preceded by a line saying racism is ‘not born in you! It happens after you’re born…’”

One legislator said that “a song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the American way of life.” Rodgers and Hammerstein defended their work strongly. James Michener, upon whose stories South Pacific was based, recalled, “The authors replied stubbornly that this number represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in.”

The following are words from the song:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate
And fear
You’ve got to be taught
From year
To year
It’s got to
Be drummed in your dear little ear
You’ve got to
Be carefully
Taught
You’ve got to be taught
To be
Afraid
Of people
Whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a different shade
You’ve got to
Be carefully
Taught
You’ve got to be taught
Before it’s too late
Before you are six
Or seven
Or eight
To hate all the people
Your relatives hate
You’ve got to
Be carefully taught
You’ve got to
Be carefully taught

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Deshawn Swasey

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