IACHR report says racial discrimination persists in the Caribbean

A recent report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), has said that the problems of race are most persistent in the Caribbean, compared to other parts of the Americas.

The report which looked at the “Situation of People of African Descent in the Americas” also stated that though the problem is most persistent in the Caribbean, is it is also most subtle.

Professor Rose Marie Belle Antoine, IACHR Commissioner and Rapporteur on People of African Descent and Against Racial Discrimination, has suggested that the subtle persistence of racial profiling and discrimination in the Caribbean could be because people have grown to accept it.

“Colour prejudice is…perhaps the most under reported form of discrimination that we have but at the same time perhaps it is the most complained about in informal ways.”

She added that though there is an acknowledgement of social and cultural differences among races in the Caribbean, there still is anxiety when it comes to full and deep acceptance of these differences.

“While we pat ourselves on the back for being rainbow countries, the reality is that there are still race tensions in our societies.

“In more modern times this has manifested itself most prominently in the relations between Indo and African-Caribbean peoples, particularly in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.”

In presenting the report, Professor Belle Antoine said that while there may be less adverse displays of racism today, especially between people of African and European descent, there are still some very strong structural paradigms that exacerbate inequalities between the races.

“Financial power is still largely in the hands of white minorities in the region because of business patterns that have shifted little in the centuries”, Professor Belle Antoine said.

She pointed to studies done in Barbados which show that black entrepreneurs have greater difficulty in securing business loans and capital than their white counterparts, which she  said ‘places them at a disadvantage from the outset’.

The report also showed that in the Caribbean racial discrimination to Afro-descendent people is linked to the darkness of their skin, poverty and the control of economic resources.

The Commission’s report was presented at a special ceremony as an aside to the just concluded Summit of Caribbean Leaders in St. Lucia and addressed the entire Americas.

CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin La Rocque in receiving the report said the Caribbean must take “careful note of the report given the demographics of our region.”

“Too many persons of African descent in the hemisphere do not have access to basic services in health and education for example and thereby have difficulty in realizing their full potential and contributing meaningfully to the advancement of their families’, communities and nations.”

Ambassador La Rocque told the gathering that this situation in the region was one of the issues that  prompted  CARICOM to support a resolution at the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations which resulted in March 23rd 2007 being declared “International Day to Mark the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade”.

He said it cannot be denied that people of African descent have contributed immensely to the development of the region and as such should be respected for their contributions.

“Ladies and gentlemen this report may be a sober reminder of the deep-rooted problems which remain in the hemisphere, but there are sufficient examples of people of African descent who came to the fore inspite of the challenges.”

 “There is a need therefore, even in the Caribbean to enquire seriously and objectively into these issues with a view to constructing newer paradigms based on genuine equality and social advancement for all of our peoples”, said Professor Belle Antoine.©

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