Black Lives Matter

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

BORDERS are closed but TT’s ties to events around the world could not be stronger.

Some might feel the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has little to do with us. Think again.

There are differences, there are subtleties, there are nuances, for sure.

But consider: every year about 120,000 tourists from this country travel to the US, according to figures from Washington’s National Travel and Tourism Office.

Some go for leisure. Some go to visit family. Others go on business. Many are students, diplomats, exchange visitors.

Then there are those with dual citizenship. They winter in TT and spend the rest of the year in the US.

The US Department of Justice has also estimated about 50,000 undocumented people from TT in the US.

So it is no exaggeration to say it. What happened to George Floyd could have happened to one of us.

Nothing better illustrates this than the experience of former US ambassador to TT John Estrada, appointed to the post during the tenure of President Barack Obama.

Estrada was born in Laventille but moved to the US when he was 14. He later became the 15th sergeant major of the US Marine Corps, the second black man to attain that rank.

Yet for all his distinguished service he has been subject to racial profiling and racist interactions.

“Unfortunately, I’m just another black man until they find out who I am,” Estrada recently told Newsday. “I get nervous. Me, a sergeant major and former ambassador.”

Completing the circle is the fact that about 160,000 US citizens visit TT every year. They bring not only tourist dollars, but also their attitudes, their point of view.

Estrada’s successor, Joseph Mondello – appointed under the tenure of Donald Trump – acknowledges the need for the US to do better on race.

“There are problems in our society that have to be alleviated,” Mondello told Newsday on Monday as he stood among protesters outside the embassy. “I’m here because I believe in what these men and women are trying to transmit.”

We are under no illusions. We know race is a complex and deeply personal matter for each and every one of us. We agree that the issues being discussed cannot be reduced to simplistic arguments.

But to the extent that the BLM movement has shone a spotlight on the need for more meaningful engagement with these issues, at home and abroad, we stand in solidarity with it and with those who, on both sides of the Atlantic, are seeking productive ways to force a global reckoning.

Yesterday, stirring tribute was paid to Mr Floyd at a memorial service in Houston. It was a sombre farewell, but not a final goodbye. The spirit of true change will keep him alive.

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