My heart is heavy with prayers on behalf of Mauritius where I am blessed to be residing and working, as an oil spill catastrophe compounds the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in this idyllically beautiful though in so many ways fragile land. Thanks with ultimate love to those in many places around the world who have texted and emailed your concerns to me about Mauritius. Your prayers and positive thoughts are well needed and greatly appreciated.
This tear jerking natural disaster gives us a reflection today exacerbated with the horrible Beirut blast earlier this week and the deteriorating oil tanker in the Red Sea unattended as proxy war rages in Yemen ; and the profit motive loosening of environmental protections in America,Brazil , and elsewhere in the established and emerging West. And it is impossible for us , none of us, to escape from the web of disastrous environmental circumstances engulfing all of us whether we believe in global warming or not-the coming further biodiversity consequences of global warming adding rock salt to the wounds of and going beyond the present COVID 19 pandemic and its emerging mutations.
Whether we live in the declining North and West or in the emerging South and East in the world, or on mainlands or on islands, the climatical catastrophes are now causing us all to be jolted rudely out of our beds of complacency.We are being forced to open our eyes without the time to indulge in the luxurious privilege of rubbing them to get the sleep out of our dropping post-dreamland eyelids.
What more will it take for we human beings to realize and act constructively about the sobering fact that physical environments and the non-human lives within them and what we human beings do to them have real consequences at all times.We can never afford to waste one minute ignoring anything or being careless when it comes to our environments and to non-human living animals and plants. No matter where we are or stand in any society especially one which claims to be a democracy ,we can never afford be sleep at the wheel.We must always be alert and be proactive and preventive rather than passive and indifferent since that which is a tranquil paradise environment or a scenic port or luscious green forests or beautiful spacious plains and even impoverished and wealthy rural and urban living spaces can in the blink of an eye go up in explosive environmental and life taking smoke or toxic spill.
It is one thing when such environmental and life taking destructions occur beyond our human control such as an earthquake or cyclone or hurricane or volcanic eruption so long as preparations by governments and communities are made so when some mass destructive catastrophe does occur everyone no matter their wealth or poverty and cultural background are all taken care of the same quality of life way.It is the most tragic mass catastrophe which occurs when it is due to governments and communities having the ability to develop natural disaster preparation capacity though don’t bother to do so or ignore the warnings of citizens and noncitizens since for demographic reasons they do not have the respect of the powerful to be listened to and heard for urgent action.Thus when the natural disaster comes those in government, private sector, and civil society power are caught flatfooted and the entire society comes to suffer in one way or another. We all become victims of our own negligence within not outside our control.
In the midst of and in the aftermath of any natural disaster be it beyond or within human control there invariably is raised in these global social media days the human rights concern of the uneven ways the mass catastrophe affects the quality of life of impacted populations. This is especially the case for the quality of life of mass natural disaster effects on historically excluded and marginalized populations. In Mauritius it is the issue of African Kreoles; that is, those Mauritians with African descent heritage who acknowledge their heritage though realizing there are many Mauritians of Indian, English, and French descent with African heritage though not acknowledged let alone in more cases than a few, even known.
Yesterday evening one event I attended in the nearby Town of Rose Hill, not cancelled due to the impending oil spill disaster, was the first ever public conversation in Mauritius about racial prejudice in this otherwise island paradise. Though there was the predicted attempt by some speakers to dilute the issue by speaking about other kinds of non-racial social prejudices ,the focus appropriately always came back to systemic and structural anti-Afro- Kreol prejudice in this land most apparent in the public and in the corporate private sectors and in interracial dating, marriage, and family formations in relation to Afro-Kreols . Paradoxically people here in Mauritius are so closely knitted and friendly though can be so deeply historically divided in their racial prejudices ( Though treated kindly as a brother in most private and public places I have been in Mauritius, I have not been totally immuned from anti-Black racism before or/and after I have opened my American sounding mouth.For instance , consider the Indian doctor seeing me for the first time asking me if the “Professor ” before my name was my actual title or a nickname– well we know Black people, especially older or younger men ,no matter their nationality are not well educated and love nicknames like Prof and Doc, right?🤭😊).
Most of the speakers tried to link their concerns about historical and contemporary anti-Afro-Kreol racial prejudice to the globalizing U.S.George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protest movements supplemented with American peace songs.Just as much there could have been needed attention given to how the oil spill disaster is a tragic reminder of the historic Afro-Kreol fishing industry and how much it has been excluded from especially corporate domestic and global trading markets and trends towards importing fish from other countries than from their own largely Black fishermen.
But it was a good start especially with so many young people present..the future of this nation with such potential to become incredibly great. Have to start somewhere in discussing publicly such a delicate paradoxical blemish in a society with aspirations to be a big league nation in a world where any form of racial prejudice will ultimately impede the dreams of lofty national ambitions.
In moving forward from last night’s first public try to have a conversation about anti-Afro-Kreol racial prejudice and as the gallant efforts to contain the drifting oil continue, there is the chronic need of a more comprehensive national restorative justice initiative involving government and local community leaders developing platforms to have difficult transparent conversations to address the deep societal ugliness captured in what an Afro-Kreol sage told me soon after my arrival: as one Mauritius poet said: Mauritiuians grow two things: pineapples and prejudices.
Though Mauritiuians are indeed nice and kind in public and in their numerous festivals and religious celebrations, what is expressed way too often behind closed doors and in private and public unspoken or spoken preferences in who gets what when it comes to power and privilege and to decent quality of life ( including recruitment invitations to faith communities) are totally different stories. The mosaic spillings of racial prejudices in Mauritius hidden and usually when mentioned explained away under the guises of words like communalism and religion or through mere pretending that such degradation while happening don’t happen, is a slow cancer eating away at the soul of this truly lovely nation which needs to be brought to the surface and made to cease.That is ,if the nation wants to become in substance, not just in global measures of development, a big League global democracy. The mosaic of racial prejudices against Afro-Kreols, African and Asian immigrants,Chinese, Francos, British,Indians, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus in Mauritius has created and sustained very much taken for granted divisions of marginality and exclusion in public and private spheres of Mauritius life which wastes human resources, and create social and emotional distance anxieties and fears and contributes tremendously to brain drain of the highly talented though with devalued demographics migrating elsewhere . Unless this mosaic of deeply rooted racial prejudices is thoroughly publicly addressed, acknowledged, and properly processed and resolved through authentic restorative justice public policy designs and effectively monitored in implemented in the midst of the bare wires of racial inequality being exposed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and now oil spill crisis tainting tourist attracting beaches with obvious racialized winners and losers who always win and lose here wasting human and material resources in so many ways in the process, what will Mauritius be say next year let alone say 10 years from now as a highly vulnerable island state with such high profile ambitions of being a big league African democracy in the world?
And of course from a global perspective, Mauritius ,in reflecting about this big intricate question, is a case study for the rest of the world as most of us around the globe are in the midst of environmental disasters with such dire consequences for most of us residing in such unequal societies.If it is not racial prejudice, it is prejudices premised on age, caste, culture, ethnicity, gender , language, nationality, religion ,socioeconomic status or stateless status, which construct the false dehumanizing walls which keep us apart and degrade our views of others and of ourselves about human capacities to contribute to the well being of the societies we develop, sustain, and change. And then when natural disaster hits elites in private and public sectors are either prepared to address the needs of the most privileged while at best emergency crumbs are tossed to the least among us( e.g. the pathetic COVID 19 pandemic economic aid distributions with the predictable racial disparities, in the States though virtually all over the world).Or through ignoring what the usually ignored forewarn about possible future natural disaster due to the color of their skin or ancestry or some other source of demographic degradation, such as per chance being Afro-Kreol fishing men and women expressing concern about the tilting grounded ship …and now we see.
Every competent voice in every society is needed and it endangers society when needed competent voices are categorically ignored and otherwise devalued. Otherwise we can venture into waters with oil slick streaks and do so totally un- necessarily with long lasting if not permanent catastrophic consequences for all of us especially for the most vulnerable and underprivileged but for all of us.