Reactions to the Zimmerman verdict from the Caribbean

What does it mean when Caribbean people at home express public sadness and outrage at Zimmerman not-guilty verdict but at-home injustices are met with mainstream silence?

Is there a connection between the ability of Caribbean people at home to stand in solidarity with those protesting the devaluing of black lives that is the Zimmerman get-out-of-jail-free card and their unwillingness to lend their bodies, voices and time (hell, even facebook statuses) to causes in the very places they live? 

I think there is.

Today a friend said to me, “you post about all kinds of injustice in the Caribbean and nobody responds and now today everybody’s facebook page is filled with outrage at the Zimmerman verdict.”

There is a connection between the fact that Caribbean people know more about and “care” more about that happens in the US which is taken to be the whole world, the racism that provoked and excused Trayvon Martin’s murder and the fact that witness, Rachel Jeantel was vilified for being fat, black, workingclass, multilingual and from the Caribbean.

At the root is a globalised white supremacy and an understanding of black people as not human- a white supremacy that is historically sedimented and produced and reproduced in our time through everyday practices.  The domination of white supremacist US media has meant dehumanizing representations of both Rachel and Trayvon and contributed to the collective devaluing of the lives and tragedies of those of us outside the US and so-called minority groups within it.

This is not about denying that the Zimmerman verdict is an affront to our collective humanity wherever we are and no matter where we are from. Neither is it an attempt to police the politics of Caribbean people or to suggest that their expressions of rage and sadness are invalid.

 

I am not at all suggesting that Caribbean people should not be outraged. I just want Caribbean people’s outrage at this injustice to be less cable-TV induced.

I want mainstream anger at the deaths of I’Akobi Maloney, Brenda Belle, Kay-Ann Lamont,  the Linden martyrs, the 70+ Tivoli residents, the 7750+ Haiti cholera victims.  And when I don’t get that I try to understand why we don’t even know some of these  stories, why some of them don’t even make regional news.  In seeking to untangle the Caribbean’s response to the murder, the trial and the verdict, the dominance of US media is a key part of the story.  I wonder to what extent these public expressions of outrage are more about being part of an outernational media event, than anything else. I’m crossing my fingers that they also contain the possibility of resistance, of doing the everyday work of insisting on the inherent value of all lives.

As another Caribbean sister recently said in response to the verdict, “black men and women are seen to be valueless if we’re not doing something that people can consume and commodify.” We have to think about the multiple ways in which this resonates here.

 

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7 thoughts on “Reactions to the Zimmerman verdict from the Caribbean

  1. And that is what I attempted to clarify to a young “brother” of mine. He shared that he always wanted to truly understand how it felt to be black in the Jim Crow/Civil Rights era, and shared that with this verdict he now understands. I was a bit confused as he was born and raised in Jamaica, and only moved to North America as a young adult to pursue post-secondary education.

    Is he not aware of the injustices (steeped in racism, colorism, patriarchism, colonialism, classism) that his young Jamaican brothers and sisters encounter on a daily basis? I recently found out about the Armadale crisis, and expressed hurt over the eviction and endangerment of homosexual men by the JA police force. Also living in Toronto, I often hear of and witness profiling of black youth, of unfair and biased media coverage of Priority Neighbourhoods.

    It is sad how quickly and loudly we speak out on issues affecting American blacks but remain quiet on the injustices occurring in our own backyard.

    I didn’t have to wait for this verdict to understand the pain/oppression/trauma etc felt by our ancestors, I’m reminded of it daily.

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  2. Thank you for your comment. It expands this post to remind us of the issue of homelessness facing gay and trans* youth in the Caribbean as well as the injustice of the Armadale fire. Even as we condemn the injustice of the verdict and trial we have to also asks ourselves why we are so apathetic to suffering at home?

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  3. I totally agree with your analysis. Please add to your list the victims of the Tivoli Gardens massacre in May, 2010 in Kingston, Jamaica – nearly EIGHTY of them, including many young, poor black men like Trayvon. AND the pregnant woman shot dead by the police in Yallahs, Jamaica last year. AND… The list goes on. Please let us have more outrage at the injustices meted out on a daily basis right here in the Caribbean. Thank you for this post (and for your friend’s comment).

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