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So that we would know
Posted: Sunday, May 16, 2004

by Linda Edwards
May 13, 2004

Now that the two Nobel Laureates, The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, and His Excellency President Mandela have left our shores, it would be a good thing for our government, here in Trinidad and Tobago, to acquire copies of the documentation of The Truth And Reconciliation Commission Hearings of South Africa, and place them in our libraries, so that we will never forget what some humans can do to others in the name of unbridled greed for power.

The one scene that comes to mind, reported from the findings, was of four or five policemen from the Aparthied regime arresting an African freedom fighter, taking him to a deserted beach, killing him and barbecuing his remains on one fire, while they barbecued their dinner on another. Then they tossed his bones into the ocean so that no trace of him would be found. This was the confessed statement of one of them. It was at this stage, it is said, that Tutu wept.

Then of course, there was the doctor of death, who, having he said, received antrax from the US, used it to poison brands of cigarettes, alcohol and chocolates marketed to Africans. "60 Minutes" did an interview with this doctor. News of his trial has disappeared from the headlines.

Now why bring all this up, after all this time? Less than ten years? Because if we do not remind our children of the cost of freedom, they will take it for granted, and squander it. Africans, in Africa and elsewhere, need to remember that our freedoms were won at a terrible price, that policemen in TnT beat protesters at the Oval in 1985 or 86 for protesting a white South African being on the English team, in defiance of an international ban on South Africans in sport. We need to remember that Zola Budd a South African runner, claimed English citizenship and ran in the Olympics for England, in 1984 also defying that ban. Ironically, she tripped up the American Mary Decker, and they both were out of the race. She was running barefoot, and that was OK, but it was not OK when Abe Bileka did it and won the Marathon in Rome in 1960. After he won, shoes were deemed to have been required. Bileka was Ethiopian.

The world will never equate an African with a European, despite the progress we have made. People like Kafra Kambon know that in their guts. No matter who riduculed his attempted protest about The Dinner, we know it too. (Do not forget that when Tiger Woods won the Masters the first time, racial remarks were made about the food he would order- chitlings and collard greens, the traditional food of America's poorest Blacks, with whom Tiger never identified. The winner of the Masters determines the menu for the celebratory dinner) We need to educate our children never to forget, the way the Jews remind their children of the Holocaust. Too many African children know the details of the Holocaust, and not much about the Atlantic slave trade that began an unprecedented trade in humans, the effects of which are still felt today.

Apologists for the trade often say that slavery existed in other places, and Africans enslaved Africans, both true; but never before, and always since, slavery has been associated with dark skin color and tight curly hair. When Joseph served the Pharoahs, he was a slave, a scribe usually was. So the Atlantic slave trade was exceptionally vicious.

If the government of TnT feel that the documents of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are too painful for them to associate with, for political reasons, then the Anglican Diocese of TnT, Desmond Tutu's church, and the Anglican Province of the West Indies should acquire and display copies, that all could read.

What is happening to prisoners in Iraq, vicious though it is, pales in comparison with what Africans suffered in the new world, even as recently as five years ago, when a Black man, James Byrd, was dragged alive behind a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas, until his head broke off. (This was the work of civilians, NOT soldiers) !Last week a white teen was arrested for desecrating his grave! Amnesty International has accused US prisons of doing simillar things to US civilians, and under Guliani's watch in New York, a plunger was used to sodomize a Haitaian immigrant, Abner Louima, and then it was plunged down his throat. The justice project has snatched many Africans from death row in the US, who were wrongfully accused and convicted of crimes. Now similar things are reported in Iraq. It could be that what is happening to the prisoners there, was first practised at home by police and prison officers on detainees who were "others".

Our children must not be educated to be bitter. Neither Mandela nor Tutu are. They must be educated not to forget. Watchfulness and remembrance must not go out of style. There can never be a time when we flippantly say, "I overs that, yes."

While the powerful of the world continues to see other people as "them" and "the others, not us" incidents like these will continue. We are not to forget. We are not to let our children forget.

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