Economic and racial inequality exposed in French Caribbean protests

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 IF you grow up black in the Caribbean you grow up as a member of the majority and you enjoy all its accompanying rights and priviledges.

In history class kids are taught that their country, the region and by extension most of the North American continents was built on the backs of African slaves and that they are a descendants of these slaves.  All black children in the Caribbean grow up knowing that their dreams are not limited by race and that if they truly work hard they can accomplish anything. Be it a doctor, lawyer, fire fighter or even prime minister black children in the Caribbean KNOW that he/she will NEVER be asked, ” Can a black person really become prime minister? ”

In many cases White and East Indian West Indians have retreated from the political arena. Many choose not (Trinidad and Guyana are the exceptions) to participate in the political life these island states.  Since the granting of Independence (which for many of these nations occurred in the 1960s) political power was swapped for economic power.

It has long been obvious to Caribbean populations that the members of the business elite, mainly the descendants of former colonial masters, East Indian and Chinese indentured labourers, that these handful of families and (in many cases it really is just a few families) exert disproportionate economic influence based on their relative small numbers. In many cases these descendants make up less than 1% of the population yet control 80% of the economic resources with two exceptions once again Trinidad and Guyana.

Granted political power has allowed many in the Caribbean to enjoy a relative high standard of living but Caribbean leaders have often expolited and in many cases fail to seriously address lingering racial tensions that have exploded periodically in the last 50 years-the business class are not solely to blame. 

However,  with the deepening of the global economic crisis and its consequences become clearer and clearer every day for the average citizen those who have controlled the reigns of power for so long have now become targets of popular anger and protest not just in America but across the globe.  Americans aren’t the only ones who are mad as hell!

Sadly, the social structure in the Caribbean a product of its colonial legacy has remained almost unchanged and its accompanying inequalities have led to brief but destructive periods of unrest and resistance.

Martinique and Guaduloupe may now be  experiencing one of those periods, other Caribbean islands are also at risk.

Violent rebellions and revolts once the most powerful weapon in the masses arsenal have long been abandoned for more peaceful protests. But with economic discontent spreading and global resentment rising 2009 may become known as the ‘Year of Violent Discontent’.

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