Saturday, April 13, 2024

Bishop scoffs at racism


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Decades after independence first came to the English-speaking Caribbean in 1962 when Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago assumed nationhood, racial prejudice remains a hard fact of life in the region, Barbados included.
And the presence of discrimination based on race and colour may be keeping back black entrepreneurs in Barbados.
That’s what thousands of Jamaicans and other Caribbean immigrants as well as foreign diplomats and consular representatives were told in New York recently by Rev. Howard Gregory, Anglican Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, during a recent church service in Manhattan marking the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence.
As evidence to support his contention, the bishop cited a study done by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which concluded that racial discrimination was more persistent in the Caribbean than in the rest of the Americas.
In Barbados’ case, he also referred to the results of studies conducted there that showed “black entrepreneurs have greater difficulty in securing business loans than their white counterparts” and that problem placed Blacks who wanted to launch business enterprises at a “disadvantage from the outset”.
What was particularly troubling, according to the cleric, was that the commission’s scientific study had found that “while the problem was most persistent in the Caribbean, it was also most subtle”.
But Bishop Gregory didn’t spare his birthplace in its golden jubilee. For while he readily acknowledge that it had made significant strides in education by dramatically improving literacy, boosting it from 47 per cent in 1962 to 83 per cent last year and more than doubling the number of people with tertiary  education, pushing it from 9.5 per cent at independence time to 33 per cent in 2011, Jamaica was now bedeviled by rampant crime and violence, corruption at various levels of society, human trafficking, child abuse, a widespread lottery scam, and a gulf between the haves and have-nots.
He told the overflowing congregation, who later gave him a standing ovation, that 32 764 people had been murdered since independence. In 1962 there were 64 homicides in Jamaica, he pointed out, but in 2010, the number had skyrocketed to 1 420 killings.
The bishop didn’t simply focus on crime. “There are serious economic problems before us,” he went on. And at the head of that list were the onerous financial “conditionalities” being negotiated by the International Monetary Fund and the Jamaican government. The economic misfortunes were characterized by a “widening gulf” among Jamaicans, the bishop insisted.
He charged that as the economic fortunes of some Jamaicans had improved, many had “secured themselves behind gated communities to be safe and to protect their symbols of success” while others were relegated to a “life of poverty”.
Even a cabinet minister, the bishop noted, was in the news recently for statements he made about the extent to which the government’s “new tax package had failed to make provision for the protection of the poor”.
That wasn’t all. Bishop Gregory hit out at political tribalism in Jamaica, protracted delays in the delivery of justice through the courts, the absence of “equality for all before the law”, neglect of the environment, high poverty and unemployment, and the lack of a “vision for the nation around which we can unite as a people”.


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