The current worldwide discussion on race, following the death of 46-year-old black man George Floyd, has brought once again to the surface, a festering wound that is yet to be healed. Our country was impacted directly and felt it deeply when the young rising Saint Lucian Botham Jean was in 2018 shot and killed in his apartment by a police officer.
The whole world is painfully aware of the tensions between Black Americans and police and we have seen too many of our black men cut down and families affected due to discrimination. In Saint Lucia we continue to be worried about the sons and daughters of our country who live in the US and may be exposed to prejudice.
It is unacceptable and intolerable that the colour of one’s skin can affect how someone is treated, what jobs they get, what schools they can attend and something as simple as what stores they can walk into. Racial inequality in any form is unacceptable, even worse was that the colour of a man’s skin could mean the difference between life and death.
As a leader, as a man, as a Saint Lucian, I want to say that I stand with those who have felt the brunt of racial insensitivity and brutality. I stand with those who have suffered because of the skin they were born with.
Saint Lucia’s Goodwill Ambassador and Harvard Professor Dr. David R. Williams has researched and spoken extensively about the deep effect of racism on the quality of life; that it can lead to tangible, measurable negative effects specifically on health.
Dr. Williams found in his research “that discrimination is a type of stressful life experience that has negative effects on health similar to other kinds of stressful experiences.”
Dr. Williams advises that we can heal this divide and in a speech in 2016 he quoted Professor Patricia Devine, and advised that: “We must attack our hidden biases head on and effectively reduce them. Each one of us can be a ripple of hope. This work will not always be easy . . . We must dissent. We must dissent from the indifference, we must dissent from the apathy, we must dissent from the hatred and the mistrust. We must dissent, because America can do better.”
I say to you we can all do better. We have to heal those wounds. Let us not judge each other based on skin colour, or economic status but on character. Our policies as a Government have been targeted at ensuring equality in access to healthcare, education and general quality of life and we will continue our quest to improve the quality of life for all Saint Lucians.
Let us all stand with each other, hand in hand, to move forward together, to build a united community, a united country and a united world.