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Letter: The Sentinel: Black skin white masks
Published on May 13, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

The caption of this Sentinel article is borrowed from the book of the same title, written by Frantz Fanon and published in 1952, which has sold over one million English language copies and translated into twenty-five languages.

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Frantz Fanon was a Martiniquan medical doctor who specialized in psychiatry. He was educated in France, and as a black Antillian he had the unique advantage of studying the black psyche in a white world as a product of slavery, colonialism and the evolving black consciousness, both as a Martiniquan and as a medical practitioner working in France and Algerian North Africa, from where he was appointed ambassador to Ghana in 1961, where unfortunately he died of leukemia the same year. Black Skin White Masks is a mirror of the black Caribbean man trying to mimic his slave master in becoming like the latter, and in the process discovering its futility.

Fanon died at the early age of 36, and were it not for his writings, which included The Wretched of the Earth, Toward the African Revolution and a Dying Colonialism, he might have been just another footnote in the “passing parade”, at the end of France’s colonial empire in Africa, and to a lesser extent in the Caribbean.

It was another famous Martiniquan, Aimé Cesaire, who preceded Fanon and postulated the theory of Negritude, which ignited the consciousness of Caribbean people in themselves, and may have influenced the quest for nationalism in the English-speaking Caribbean in 1950s and 60s.

Fast forward to Heritage month – April 2017; it was therefore of significant interest that a segment of the Grenadian population was unhappy with the Heritage Committee in staging at River Antoine estate on April 27, a reenactment of slavery as it occurred on the plantations, for the edification – especially of our youth, who give the impression that our history began with Gairy in 1950-51 and others with the Peoples’ Revolution of 1979-83, and remain ignorant that the origin of our evolving Caribbean civilization began with the arrival of slaves from Africa 400 years ago.

There was particularly one contributor to the Caribupdate Weekly newspaper of April 27, 2017, who advocated that the reenactment should be cancelled and the committee members disbanded (words to that effect). To use his exact words, “It is very difficult to accept that not a single person on the National Heritage Committee realises that genocide is not reenacted. The victims do not imitate the tragedy. Slavery was not an event. This was a crime against humanity.” The full text of his remarks were published as a guest editorial in the Grenadian Voice newspaper of May 5, 2017.

The writer of the above indicated in his article that he was “a member of the African National Congress (ANC) … I went to jail, was tear gassed and was manhandled … by police and security guards … but we stood our ground and ultimately we won.” But the victory of the post apartheid era in South Africa has seen the blacks still second and third class citizens in their own country, which is now governed by black South African politicians from the same ANC. So what are the lessons from this black revolution; has it served South Africa well; would Mandela be smiling in his grave?

To say that the reenactment of life on the plantations during slavery is a celebration is begging the question. No one celebrates genocide. But the good thing about our democracy is that we are guaranteed freedom of speech under the constitution. Heritage Month – April 2017 was celebrated in Grenada and the rest of the world as designated by UNESCO. The Heritage Committee’s decision to remind us of our history, in the Sentinel’s view, was both necessary and timely – “Those who forget (ignore) their history are doomed to repeat it”, is a salutary reminder of the current first world (global) trend to further marginalise (neo-colonialism/globalization) small developing states like Grenada, whose population is mainly black.

Let us not forget that the attempted decimation of the Jews by Hitler (the holocaust), during World War II to establish the “white master race”, the injustices meted out by America to the Japanese Americans also during World War II, the near extinction of the native Americans (Amerindians) by the United States, the genocide of the Greeks by Turkey, the apartheid system of government in South Africa; although not reenacted, are thoroughly researched, recorded, documented, filmed and are housed in contemporary modern museums for the world to see and contemplate as part of the demonic side of global history.

Grenada’s reenactment 2017 of slave labour on the plantation, in the Sentinel’s view – is just a poor third world’s method of reminding ourselves of this horrific occurrence, not a celebration.

In conclusion, the Sentinel – while respecting the views of others – has taken the position that the ministry of education should make Grenadian and Caribbean history compulsory study in all primary and secondary schools, in order to further inform and educate the youth so that they become grounded in their roots and be better able to successfully manage the future of the nation.

If we are not conscious of our history (black history) and remain constantly vigilant, there are those in the white developed world who, with their local collaborators, are conspiring to control the natural resources of the world for their own benefit, including the little that we have in Grenada (Echoes of the Blue Economy), and are patiently waiting in the wings to return us to “hewers of wood and carriers of water” – back to 21st century slavery.

The Willie Redhead Foundation
 
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