Op-Ed: Rooted in the Struggle for Dignity, Justice and Equality

Op-Ed: Rooted in the Struggle for Dignity, Justice and Equality
University of The Bahamas

From The President, Faculty, Students and Staff, University of The Bahamas.

The vivid images of protestors in the United States and around the world demonstrating their pain, and outrage over the senseless and horrific loss of black lives are gripping and emotional. For more than a week, we have watched mothers, fathers, students, activists and communities, across various ethnic groups, protest in solidarity, calling for a just and equitable society. It is a clarion call that has reverberated around the world.  It is also the same call that has been echoed for more than 400 years.

Remaining silent is not an acceptable response to systemic and institutional racism and all that it has spawned.  No matter the country, community or context, life is sacrosanct; black lives matter. All lives matter.

The lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd matter even more, as they have propelled people in the United States and across the globe to stand together and oppose hatred and bigotry. As our compatriots in the United States grieve and protest, we grieve with them and yearn for a world in which every single person has the same opportunity and access to live a dignified life.

These peaceful protesters are not to be confused with the criminal behavior of some who, behind the wall of concerned citizens, strike at the opportunity to cause destruction to properties and communities.  Some of these behaviours indicate a society that has given up on ever finding equality; they have given up on hope.

The crowds that have poured onto the streets, hands symbolically raised, knees bent as they face police harken to the days of struggle and protest in the 1950s and 1960s against abuse, discrimination, and injustice in the United States, South Africa, The Bahamas, and other societies around the world.

It reminds us of the evolution of the Black Panther Movement, Trinidadian and Political Activist Stokely Carmichael and the likes of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. It shows us that Black lives are still not valued as equal. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (King Jr., 1963).

Denouncing racism, bigotry, brutality and inequality needs to be sustained beyond the powerful protests that are occurring so that real change can take root, grow and flourish into trees that will never bear strange fruit.

As a beacon of transformation in The Bahamas, University of The Bahamas illuminates the way through relevant conversations, research and progressive action. Deeper dialogues must emerge on matters like race relations, power structures, the criminal justice system, marginalised groups and social justice, leading to real policy amendments in our own country and improvements of our habits, behaviours, and beliefs.

New knowledge, which impacts teaching and further research, plays an integral role in shaping the consciousness of our societies. Documenting and comparing both past and current struggles provides the proper lens through which progressive nations can and must evolve; while remaining ever cognizant of the fact that new policies often result in the same behaviour, expressed covertly through revised or coded institutional practices.  We have seen it repeatedly over several decades; i.e., majority rule accompanied by continued economic inequities, or, members of extremist factions becoming the dominant force in state and federal policing authorities.

At the core, however, the world needs more love. We all need to love more. We need to be more compassionate, empathetic, tolerant and just. Differences should be embraced and celebrated. Each and every person has something vital and unique to contribute to a vibrant, global community.

The protests that are occurring are a manifestation of legitimate frustrations over systems and practices that perpetuate discrimination, disparities and hatred. Right now, there is heightened activism and awareness. In this moment, there is also an opportunity to disrupt the status quo, dispense with age-old problems, have frank discussions and do the things that are necessary to make our systems, communities and societies better.

We will do all of this with knowledge, truth and integrity as our guide.