I was in Belize last month, and I was surprised at how much smaller the minority black population (Creole and Garifuna) is. When I left Belize in the mid ‘70s, it was still a majority Black country. If you really want to see that change, go to Finnegan’s Market. The shift was both surprising and eye-opening to me. There was a smattering of black faces, but for the most part it seemed that I was in Mexico, or Guatemala, or Salvador. I’m not passing judgement on what I saw, I just saw reality, and it was very sobering. I also, over the week that I was there, saw police, in military fatigues, pulling over cars, with semi-automatic rifles pointed at the passengers, who in the 4 cases I witnessed, were young, black, and wore their hair in dreadlocks. Now, I’m not saying that it was profiling, but it sure seemed that way. Now I’m sure some of these young men deserved to be pulled over; after all, there’s a lot of gang violence in the city, but maybe the ones whom I saw were not guilty of anything, except being young and black!
I was watching a documentary about racism in England a few days ago. The only difference between British racism and American racism is that the English are more polite racists. They are not as violent or as outspoken as Americans are, but are racists, nonetheless. People of color are marginalized and segregated and disrespected, and have to work twice as hard for a chance to get a job, or live in the right neighborhood, as their white counterparts do. At this time in England, the Pakistani and the Bangladeshi are the ones who suffer the brunt of this disease, and the black people sigh in relief for not being at the bottom of the barrel anymore. And the saddest part is that there’s even racism within all the different minority groups.
Back to Belize, and its changing racial features. I think that sociologists and other social scientists should study this phenomenon, this rare phenomenon which has occurred, because we were never taught, as a people, of our culture, heritage, history, and national pride. We allowed the Jesuits, the Peace Corps, the religious denominations, to feed us all that colonial and religious garbage, which we drank like Kool-Aid, never questioning the why and the wherefore. No national pride, no sense of history, just swallowed the indoctrination, existing in a world where to go “outside”, was most people’s dream. I remember learning in history in high school, of the Battle of Hastings, the 100-year war. I knew about all the wars of Europe, but was never taught about the Caste Wars, which affected us directly, or Haitian independence, or Simon Bolivar, or the West Indian Federation. Nada, zilch, nothing! I had to read the Amandala to learn about so much of our history.
So, does it really surprise anyone that we don’t fight for our birthright like true patriots? That we let others come in and decide our future for us? Independent my ass! We are still the indentured servants we were after slavery was abolished. Depending on the man to give us respite and respect, which they almost never do! I’ve always admired Mexico for not letting anyone else dictate their fate or future. The government of the day might be corrupt, but they decide their own fate. Why? Because they know their history. Every child in Mexico, and in most countries, is taught their history, instilling pride and civic duty in them. In Belize, we hope for the day we can go abroad and live a better life.
I know I’m being a bit too hard on my own, but after independence we should’ve been more aggressive in pushing national pride, teaching our kids how we could’ve made the country better, instead of being beholden to rubber barons and carpetbaggers, and opportunists. Sometimes I wonder if it’s too late, if we’ve already sold our souls to the devil, if there’s no redemption. We live in a tropical country that grows almost everything, but you can’t find lime at the market, and if you do, two fi dalla! Come on, man, we can do better than this. We have so much fertile land, but farming is seen as antiquated! The immigrants and refugees don’t think so; they’re farming and selling their products and making a good living, while we’re paying a dollar for 2 limes.
National pride, civic duty. We used to be able to blame colonialism for our state, but that time is past. We have been in charge for over a generation, and we should be seeing the fruits of our labor. Instead, there’s turmoil in the streets, unions are being targeted and marginalized, and the puppet masters are still pulling our strings. Wake up, please, wake up.
“Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said: this is my own, my native land!” — Walter Scott
Belizean in diaspora.