Eldred Neal and Marvin Mora are leaders within two of the most powerful unions in Belize representing a diverse membership from all over the country of Belize. Both men were secretly taped using racist terms and cultural stereotypes against the Garinagu people of Belize.
If you were raised in Belize, you are familiar with the sundry list of racial adjectives and stereotypes thrown at our diverse melting pot of cultures. Many people think that such words are innocent, playful or even harmless and maybe even cultural jabbing. Some people will argue that Belize is a racial utopia and in the next breath utter cultural and racially insensitive stereotypes. When you speak to Belizeans who grew up dark skinned, darker, short haired, wide nose, Creole, Maya, Garifuna, Mennonite, East Indian, Mestizo, Arab, White – the pain is evident in their stories and what we think is cultural jabbing is a form of racial bulling that undermines ones dignity, self esteem and individuality.
The racist and divisive expressions stem from a dark colonial history. Many cultures in Belize are victims of an orchestrated psychological form of racism producing self-hate, divide and servility. We don’t question the status quo, we don’t challenge injustices, we don’t fight for each other. We are a “docile people” – mental slaves. We have too many people who subscribe to a romantic notion of European ancestry even though their features, hair, skin color betray them; many revere European laws and order even though Europeans have committed the worst atrocities against our ancestors.
Belize is historically flawed because of fairy tale books that pass off as history books and the failure to introduce Maya and African history into the curriculum. Neal and Mora are ignorant to their own subjugation. They promulgate hate and devise a culture war against a race of people they share ancestry with. Neal, in his rant, did point out a truthful yet sordid past about Belize; Belize practiced segregation. In additional to segregation, there were extreme forms of bullying. The Garinagu were banned from living in Belize City and were only allowed to visit on allocated days. The Garinagu that visited the city as fishermen and vendors faced the scourge of rude children’s stones, teasing and disrespect. Is this something that Neal should be celebrating? Even within Creole culture, there were mulatto children who hid away their dark skinned parents or parents who treated their darker children or family members with disdain. There are even stories of abandonment due to complexion of children.
Colonialism was a systematic and power tool of control. Races were eradicated; histories and identities of ancestors were erased; subjects were confused with divisive tools, whipped into compliance, subjected to an acceptable form of inequality, limited access and exclusion.
Belize City has the most powerful leaders; every Prime Minister in Belize’s short independent history has originated from the City. Belize City can be described as a predominantly black city, with some of the most educated people, the epicenter of Belize’s legal and financial centers, and yet the city boasts the poorest divisions, worst living conditions, highest crime rates, and the most evidence of wealth inequality than any other part of the country of Belize. Why?
Too many Belizeans in powerful positions prefer to transplant wealth and land to foreigners before they extend a hand to uplift the people they share a birthright, culture and citizenship with. Belizeans have accepted divisive labels such as political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity and citizenship unable to recognize the destructive forces of colonialism.
Think about the power of colonialism that even today, people are unable to break the chains. We have highly educated and intelligent people still advocating stereotypes, distrusting and fearing people of their own citizenship. We have people we have entrusted to lead us, to fight for us – dividing us. Please let your voices be heard. Let your leaders know that we will break this mental chain, we will resist the culture wars, we will break the chains of colonialism and we demand that all citizens be treated equally without exception.
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds” (Bob Marley)