FROM THE BOUNDARY: Buffalo soldier – Part 5

Minister John King has announced that Nelson will be moved. Barbadians have the opportunity to suggest his next resting place. Good. That’s as it should be. It’s statesmanship from the Prime Minister’s Office, not bully boy tactics and scarcely veiled incitements to criminal damage. Actually, Minister King might just have been a little amused to hear ‘The People’s Business’ wise men – Ambassador Comissiong, Edward Gibbon-Marshall, and comrade Denny – jubilantly claiming on CBC that they, together with their young supporters, had caused Nelson’s downfall. They seemed to have forgotten the calls for King’s removal for suggesting exactly what’s transpired! I wonder how long the jubilation will last. As for the “young supporters”, was that really their original intention? Whatever happened to George Floyd?

Meanwhile, I wonder if the PM has given thought to the feelings of those white citizens of Barbados who’ve had to endure all the hate speech, and worse, over past weeks. It really must have been very unpleasant. Perhaps it’s time to enact a Race Relations Act to protect them and others who contribute so much to this paradise the tourists dream of.

I’m sure there are those in this same paradise who question my writing on these things. Sorry fellas. After 25 years here, it’s clear I’m not just a passer-by. If I sometimes wear a white stole, my cassock is black. I’ve looked for leadership from the Church. But this isn’t LGBTQ month, so – silence. Besides, didn’t Jesus speak his mind freely, justly, without hate, on this and that, and to Roman centurions, Canaanite and Samaritan women, Pharisees, rich young men, the blind and possessed – anyone and everyone – though his words upset some? His priests can surely do no less else, despite the risks, what’s the point of their priesthood?

Minister King once spoke to young Calypsonians words which apply to us all, and we should never forget them. “You are all winners”, he said. “You do not know with each song and each note whose life you touch.” Don’t measure yourselves “by other people”, by “what other people say”. What wise words. In all life’s streaks of wrong and suffering, we never know who’s breathed easier because of us.

We’re all grains of wheat fallen to earth. What will our life force do with us? Well, maybe it’ll help us respect each other as people. Without that we “suffocate”. I’m for Pope Francis.  “I cannot pretend to have a different identity in order to dialogue”, he once said. “This is my identity, and I dialogue because I’m a person.” That’s non-negotiable, however some characterise us because of our skin colour. Dorian Bryan, in this newspaper, surely got it right. We must look beyond Nelson, he said, and engage in honest conversation (24 June). Are we ready for that? The death of George Floyd – remember him? – demands it.

No matter what, let the spirit of justice, the very passion of Christ, determine our responses to all our ills no matter where they’re rooted, in race, class, the Church, corruption, the legal system – anything. How else can we know we’re fully alive if we’re not prepared to tweak the divine threads which make up the tapestry which is US? How else do we mend our brokenness?

As for me, my ‘whiteness’ is just something I have. I certainly don’t ‘love’ it. If I did, or any other colour I might have had, just maybe it would have caused me to hate the colour of everyone else. I might feel ‘threatened’. What about you? How can an accident of birth make us so stupid? Yes, I realise that there are those few here, cocooned in yesterday, whose noses point inward. But that’s a generational thing, and is slowly disappearing. Certainly, none of the handful of white folk I know here suffer from it. In any case, tomorrow belongs to YOU, whoever you are, and no matter the colour of your skin. Why would you want the past to rule you from its grave?

Go safely, then – until the next time.

John Lewis, from the boundary: “Too many of us still believe our differences define us.”

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