Was White Supremacy the Reason Black Lives Were Endangered?
Racism and entitlement can be a deadly combination
As many of you know, I live in Barbados. What you may not know, because the success of Black majority nations is rarely reported, is that our island nation has handled the pandemic well. We locked down tight early on, and managed to avoid community spread. So, while we have continued to mask, sanitize and social distance, we've been able to be out and about and have small gatherings since late June 2020*.
But as a nation dependent on tourism, we knew we had to reopen our borders, and that's where the point of failure came. Because people who act entitled in their own countries act doubly entitled here.
The narrative they believe is that Black people are lesser, and they don't have to abide by our laws if they don't like them. It's the same attitude that gets some people locked up for drug use in Asian countries where it's a crime.
Back in Barbados, though, this attitude has resulted in several tourists breaking curfew. What's supposed to happen - and does, in most cases - is that you get tested three days before travel, quarantine on arrival, get tested two days later, and then provided your tests are negative, are free to enjoy the rest of your holiday. You can read more about the process in these articles by Lisa Hurley, Travel in the Times of COVID: The Good, the Bad, and the Germy, Part 1 and Part 2.
With second and third waves in many countries, and lockdowns of various types, Barbados has been a good bet for those seeking a little more liberty. But, as usual, a few people have gone too far.
In the Christmas period, we heard about the person who climbed over his balcony to leave his hotel but was spotted at a bank, still wearing the wristband that identified him as coming from a high risk country. Then there were the tourists who broke curfew to go and party.
But the most egregious recent example is that of Zara Holland, formerly of Love Island, and her boyfriend. He'd had a positive test, so arrangements were being made to take them both to the island's quarantine hospital. It seems they didn't want to do that, so they cut off their wristbands, booked a flight to the UK, and got a taxi to the airport. In so doing, they endangered the taxi driver, and anyone who came into contact with them at the airport. They were also prepared to endanger their fellow passengers. Luckily, they were apprehended before they could board, and were at the hospital at the time of writing.
The question that many Barbadians ask themselves is whether the couple would have behaved the same when visiting a European country with similar restrictions. Was this incident part of the water of white supremacy we're all swimming in, or was it simply celebrity entitlement? Having seen this kind of behavior before, many of us suspect the former, or, at the very least, a bit of both.
There was also a striking similarity to the Skylar Mack incident in the Caymans, where she broke quarantine to watch her boyfriend in a jet ski competition, without knowing whether she had Covid or not.
What annoys most people about that is that since everyone knew the date of the competition and the quarantine rules, she could have chosen to arrive in time to complete her quarantine. Given her actual arrival date, therefore, she clearly never had any intention of complying. Her grandmother was on TV shedding tears because local authorities jailed her granddaughter (as they should have) but many of us are unsympathetic.
As we often say, racism isn't just about name calling. It goes far deeper than that, and the attitudes shown in these two incidents are prime examples. They indicate both a disdain for the laws in Black majority countries, and a worrying willingness to put Black lives - and other lives, to be fair - in danger.
As someone who’s lived for many years in white majority countries, I know the narrative you often hear about Black majority countries, so it’s not really a surprise that Mack and Holland would assume they could do whatever they liked. But it is positively criminal to risk spreading a terrible and sometimes fatal disease to hundreds of people (let’s not forget their potential fellow passengers) because of those feelings of entitlement and superiority. And it’s an attitude that has to end if we’re ever to fight racism successfully.
What do you think about these two incidents?
*As I was publishing this, we’d just had our first super-spreader event, but quick action means that things should be back to the new normal in just a couple of weeks.
If you want to do more work on anti-racism, and hear more of my experiences face to face, check out the anti-racism workshop I’m leading on January 23rd.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.