Change in relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Barbados symbolizes a generational shift

More than five decades after declaring independence from Britain, Barbados severed colonial ties with the impeachment of Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and sworn in Sandra Mason as president.

The same week Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the country’s Constitution – which attributes central, but largely indirect, roles to the queen and her representative, the governor of genresl – would be reconsidered in 2022. Although Holness said the review was linked to a move to fill in the gaps that were revealed during the Covid-19 pandemic, many assumed it was a signal from Jamaica, because he did in the past, that she too is ready to sever ties with the British monarchy. As I watched the historic moment and spectacular ceremony in Barbados, I thought about how my 93 year old great aunt, Kathleen, from Jamaica, would not be in favor of what just happened at the Barbados in Jamaica.

My late 93 year old great aunt Kathleen from Jamaica would not be in favor of what just happened in Barbados, Jamaica.

It may seem like a random thought to some, but the pressure from Barbados to distance itself from the royal family must be seen as a symbol of a generational change. Young leaders of color, especially given the struggles blacks endured in 2020 – which echoed for 400 years – will continue to push their countries out of the shadows of colonial rule, perhaps against the will of an older West Indian. generation.

Aunt Kathleen was proud of her identity as a Jamaican and just as proud to be a citizen of the British Commonwealth. Such feelings are common among older generations. For them, the historical and contemporary links with the British Isles offered educational and career opportunities, and the occasional moments of beating Great Britain at the Commonwealth Games, or in a cricket test match (where the West Indian teams of The 1970s and 1980s were some of the best in the world).

But perhaps what happened in Barbados this week – and what it might portend for other formerly colonized countries in the Caribbean and beyond – can serve as a model for how we are moving forward in this country. as a society in the 21st century

Like Jamaica, Barbados was part of the British Commonwealth, with a English colony from the 1620s. Prince Charles, who attended the ceremony in Barbados, noted that “From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery that forever stains our history, the people of this island have traced their way with extraordinary strength “.

But many Americans, and I suspect people around the world, know little about the conditions of slavery in the Caribbean. The sugar and rum trade created some of the most brutal and inhumane conditions of slavery, as well as massive resistance from enslaved Africans. In 1791, self-emancipated Africans sparked an insurgency on the island of Santo Domingo (now Haiti), which ended in 1804 with Haiti’s declaration of independence, the first successful rebellion of people enslaved in the Western Hemisphere.

In the city of Bridgetown in Barbados, there is a statue of the Igbo slave hero Bussa who led the biggest rebellion in Barbadian history in 1816. Later rebellions in Guyana in 1823 and in Jamaica from 1831 to 1832 (from December to January following) were significant events which influenced public opinion on slavery in the British Empire. Slavery was abolished in 1833, with the Abolition of Slavery Act (although it did not take effect until 1834). From that point in history, colonial power in the Caribbean among the British, Dutch, French, Spanish and the United States has cast a long and indelible shadow among the nations of the region.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, new President Sandra Mason, singer Rihanna, former cricketer Garfield Sobers and Britain’s Prince Charles stand during the presidential inauguration ceremony to mark the birth of a new republic in Barbados. Toby Melville / Pool via Reuters

Colonial power led to the exploitation of the land, natural resources and peoples of the Caribbean. A strange symbiosis has developed between the inhabitants of these nations and the European colonial states. Numerous legal and constitutional influences are evident in the infrastructure of Caribbean nations; but it is also significant to note the intellectual, artistic and sporting influences on Europe. Yet these connections are fraught with complexities – racism, xenophobia, chauvinism, colourism and classism.

Caribbean contributions to the savings, defense, and cultures of Europe are frequently overlooked, which has led to countdown times. For this generation of Caribbean citizens, there is an open question of how to reconcile these underrated and undervalued investments that have been made – and whether or not to continue to contribute.

This speaks to the complex and confusing nature of these relationships. The example of Barbados presents one way forward. It was especially powerful that Charles, the heir to the British throne, discussed and recognized the systems of oppression submitted by his nation to the Barbadian people. Interestingly, at the same ceremony, the government of Barbados awarded Charles Order of Liberty, one of its highest national distinctions.

Barbados is taking an interesting path: retaining its Commonwealth membership, honoring the British royal family, and ending colonial relations.

However in a nation which has demonstrated in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and in memory of George Floyd, and which removed statue of British admiral Horatio Nelson, some believe that independence was marred by the presence of royalty.

Barbados is embarking on an interesting path: retaining its membership in the Commonwealth (a trade partnership with more than 50 former British colonies), honoring the British royal family, and ending its colonial relations. These actions may seem contradictory and confusing, but they are a testament to the complexity of this relationship, which has become even more complicated in the post-Brexit era. Some scholars question whether a Commonwealth’s relationship with post-Brexit Britain is even necessary when strengthening a relationship with the European Union, the world’s leading economic power, would be more beneficial.

Some researchers wonder if a Commonwealth’s relationship with post-Brexit Britain is even necessary.

Indeed, once the celebratory feelings subside, the new generation of rulers in Barbados (and other nations considering becoming a republic) will have several things to consider.

And while Charles recognized the brutality of slavery, he did not apologize. It is also unclear whether his comments are an acknowledgment of the government’s responsibility for Britain’s role in the murder, maiming and wrecking of the lives of Barbadians. So what comes next is an open question, and of great interest to those of us with family ties to subjugated nations – but also, interestingly, those of former colonial powers.

The government of Barbados, as well as nations such as Trinidad and Tobago and Maurice, the two previous nations to proclaim themselves independent republics of Great Britain, in 1976 and 1992, respectively, force this moment of judgment?

And what does Barbados’ decision portend for the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations? If a 2020 Jamaica poll revealing that 55% of those polled were in favor of impeaching Elizabeth as head of state is one indication, we could see more republics.

Aunt Kathleen wouldn’t be thrilled, but it seems that newer generations see their relationship with Europe differently. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, this may not only be the time for the peoples of the Caribbean to rewrite their own history, but also a time for a new generation of white Britons to learn from their country’s past atrocities.

Edward K. Thompson