pregnant woman, particularly soft and fetching in the black blouse that
camouflaged her gently swelling belly, spat out with a vehemence that was
putrid because it was directly at odds with her condition.
next time I see my father-in-law he'll be in a coffin."
I wondered, did he do to arouse that sort of hatred?
mocked the Jews, she said. He doubted that the holocaust ever took place.
Said "they", meaning the Jews, made it all up, made up the
gassing of six million Jews. Even when she disclosed she was part Jewish,
he didn't take it back. Worse, this Englishman had it in for every
minority, the "Asians (including Indians, Malaysians, Japanese,
Chinese etc)" were "untrustworthy money grabbers", the
Eastern European refugees were "prostitutes", the Hispanics were
"parasites", the Blacks were "criminals" and on and
on. Her own son from her first marriage is part black, part Jewish, part
white, part Hispanic. Recently I read somewhere, and I think I mentioned
it in this space, that it's okay to have every wicked thought in your head
about anyone. It's ugly, but let's face it, it's human. What is evil is to
act on it. To discriminate against somebody by refusing to do business
with them, refusing them employment, denying them their civil rights and
liberties, because they are a different colour, a separate race, that's
nasty. Torturing and killing them because they are not like you, that's
pregnant woman wasn't asking for reparations. She wasn't asking for
special treatment. She was simply saying acknowledge what happened to an
the bile racism produces, acknowledge the ugliness that each one of those
six million deaths represents. He wouldn't. He won't. The fact is, and we
all know it, the men with the guns, the bucks and the brawn can do
anything to those without guns, bucks, brawn. And get away with it. And
do. And they and those who are so insecure in themselves that they need to
support the brutish can simply pretend afterwards that it didn't happen.
Just wipe it clean like chalk on slate.
what? Loss of faith in humanity. Muck. It infects the viscera, gnaws at
our insides. Enough to make a lovely, young, vulnerable, pregnant woman
think of a cadaver in a coffin with hatred.
Friday in Port of Spain was a reminder that the spirit can fight back.
Nelson Mandela's presence in this city burst through the dark clouds,
whispered through the leaves in the Savannah. I wasn't at the Oval where
the children were lining up to see him. Neither was I at the Hilton or the
I wasn't so privileged. But that face on the billboard on which an entire
history of a man intertwined with the history of a country is etched, was
a reminder that he was here. To struggle against evil is one thing, to do
it successfully is another.
emerge from that evil with such generosity of spirit, such forceful
alchemy that makes former enemies, pro-apartheid fiends, murderers,
torturers into friends-that is hair-raising stuff of which icons are made.
This man, who lived a huge chunk of his life in jail, is able to tell us
not to be afraid of our own light, to remind us of our capacity to be big,
is a reminder of what resources we need to fight any injustice, whether it
takes the form of a man who exploits his workers, an official who pockets
money belonging to the poor, a wife batterer, a name caller, or someone
who hates because he can.
digress. For 600 words I have digressed. I meant this week to write of the
news that Britain's role in the slave trade is, according to the Guardian
Weekly, "about to resurface in "a sensational fashion" in a
New York courtroom for allegedly financing trading fleets that dragged
Africans from their homeland and condemned them to generations of slavery
in the New World. The concept is not new. What is different is that this
time ten black Americans who traced their ancestors to specific slave
trading episodes are using DNA technology to link themselves with slave
ships financed by Lloyds Bank. Better yet. This time Edward Fagan, the New
York lawyer who extracted huge Nazi gold settlements from German and Swiss
companies, will lead the case.
good. I have read enough about slavery to consider it one of the worst
crimes against humanity.
is distasteful to compare slavery with the holocaust. Both are nightmares
we would rather forget.
Israel and the mountains of spectacles, shoes, baby clothes, hats,
umbrellas, the photos of the gas chambers, the half-dead survivors are
everyday reminders of that time. The Jews have not forgotten as they
should not, that time. In fact many believe they have aggressively
re-established their identity in a manner that is trampling on another
race. But they have not forgotten. They will not forget.
then, do you do with a people who were shackled on ships, vomiting on one
another, sitting next to their dead, brought to the New World where they
were branded like animals, brutally separated from their families, made to
breed like cattle, denied their language, stripped of their identity,
denied dignity and basic human freedom?
say that was hundreds of years ago, time to move on. Everyone has the same
rights and opportunities now. But can you bring back the generations of
culture, of a psyche, of tradition that has been erased, that is being
painfully cobbled together now? Can you try on an identity like a pair of
may win the case, which will mean millions of dollars in compensation,
they may not. The fact is, they remember, they remind.
does Nelson Mandela. No matter what brute you need to face up to, it need
not corrupt you. Don't think of the hateful cadaver. Think of the child
growing inside you. Don't be afraid of your light, said Mandela. Don't
allow anyone to put it out.