Yesterday – Tuesday November 30th, at midnight – Barbados became the world’s newest Republic.
Shaking off the Monarchy, becoming a Republic is symbolic of a new beginning; one with Barbadians as self-determined, and navigating their own path.
Connecting the Dots – Republics to Organizations and EDI
Just like organizations who commit to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), or Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression (ARAO), it feels good to declare and set out on a new path.
The reality, however, can be challenging.
We must not only challenge old ways of doing things, we must change them for something new.
Which requires that we first notice them.
And, when we’ve been “doing it this way” for …well, forever it seems, none of this – the noticing, the challenging or the changing – is as easy as one might think, post-celebration.
So, we have to wonder – what does this actually mean?
How deep does something like this go? How far are the roots?
Pounds and Pense vs Dollars and Cents
Here is one example that comes to mind, based on our experience living in Barbados this past year.
Children are educated under the British system. This means not just structurally, but also in material.
So for example, any reference to currency in math books is to pounds and pence – in a country that has its own currency (which the Queen is not on, by the way).
Think about this – children learn about money and how to make change referencing a currency that they don’t actually use on the island. That’s a glaring example of irrelevance, don’t you think? And how does that play out when you go to the store and have to make change? It means someone at home has to re-teach you, to give you the tools to navigate your life.
Welcome to the legacy of colonization…
So learning about money using money that actually exists on the island?
What else will change?
Wait, there is more…
New books will have to be created. Math and otherwise.
When developing the curriculum, there will be room to examine where else Britain and whiteness have seeped in – and write a curriculum that is more relevant and meaningful for today’s children and youth to be able to understand themselves and their history – in all its fullness and Blackness – better.
Can it all be done? Which subject to start with? How to choose ?
Maybe we’ll leave that for later…
Organizations often stop short once the actual work that EDI requires starts to become clear.
Change can be paralyzing, but we have to start somewhere.
And each step we take forward helps us move.
We get there, eventually.
But we need to be clear on what we are looking for, where we are headed instead, and why.
And how we do it is just as important. Sometimes moreso.
Because our ways of being are also products of systems and structures of oppression.
Will the justice system change in Barbados? And to what?
What about driving? (Barbadians drive on the left…)
What else is there that will have to be examined and re-examined?
What other decisions will have to be made?
There is likely a very long list – yet to be completed, because so much of this is embedded so deeply we are (most of us) not aware of the roots, the impact, or the web that connects the items on the list, and keeps us caught in how things were, despite our desire for change.
Of course there is cause of celebration and joy!
The decision to become a Republic is symbolic of stepping into a strong, independent, national identity.
That is good. And necessary.
Especially in the face of global racial injustice, racial inequity and structural/systemic racism.
For many, it’s long overdue.
The work, however, will not always be easy, light or celebratory.
It will require commitment, dedication, fortitude and courage to stare in the face of things that have been known as “the way it is” and ask why, dig enough to find the root, and then determine if it is something that still holds true, and is to be reclaimed. Or if it is hollow in the face of new strength and identity, and needs to be discarded.
If it is reclaimed, how will that be done?
If it is discarded, what is then replaced and what is not?
And what do both of those choices symbolize in the face of a new way of being?
And then what…?
These are exciting times…if the people of Barbados can lean into change, imagine the possibilities, and be brave enough to not just say no, but live it; not just push aside the Monarchy and the symbols that will continue to uphold it, but also decolonize their minds. That is a global challenge.
Dismantling oppression is active.
Just like in organizations: An EDI statement, or stating your commitment is not enough.
The real work begins after.
In every step you take.